Section 2: MirandaLink Posts (Mobiles Ban)

Western Australia: bans mobile devices from schools and classrooms.

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Posts are slightly edited for clarity. Presented in chronological order. The complete unedited discussion can be read by MirandaLink subscribers here

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On 1st November 2019, under the Subject Heading Another state bans mobile phones the discussion is initiated by EHY:

EHY:I can’t believe what’s happening in Australia as state after state is banning mobile phones in schools. Now WA has joined NSW and Victoria. But iPads are fine! They seem to think this will stop cyberbullying.

I believe — and I have done some research in this area — that it is a class management issue, not a government matter. Some principals agree, as does Neil Selwyn.

What are your thoughts?

KM replies that does include tablets, plus earphones, smart watches, phones, but it doesn’t seem to explicitly ban notebooks and computers (though the ban might apply to student owned devices).

“I think it’s a ridiculously retrograde action and being pitched as an effort to make schools more social and physically active. There is the loophole that teachers can [the] allow use [of mobile devices].”

“I suspect it’s also in contravention of the UN Charter on the rights of children, and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

The ban is populist in its appeal. There is insufficient data to justify its purpose.

“… sets public schools back by 30 years in relation to digital learning.”

JP replies that behaviour inside school may reflect the kind of behaviours modelled outside school (as seen on TV and in social media), hence a rise in bullying and anti-social acts inside schools.

CP echoes JP comment and adds that  schools should lead on educating students how to use social media appropriately. In the UK it is up to individual schools to develop their own policies on mobile devices but school leaders are often not confident about this and can be risk averse. In addition the UK government’s curriculum reforms have failed to address the issue. 

Replying to KM, EHY acknowledges that the ban is wider but also adds such a ban is no business of government. It is the business of the school.

For every school used as an example where a ban been deemed successful, there is a school mobile where mobile devices are used to support the curriculum.

SY adds comments that it a matter of Digital Literacy, to educate children about how to manage cyberbullying which is also a broad feature of contemporary life. Analogy:”…do we put … fences round swimming pools to keep children safe, or do we teach them to swim?”

BH adds that the issue is not only about safety but how technolggy can used outside the classroom to empower learners.  Banning children from using technology is not appropriate in a progressive nation.

JW contributes to add that the culture of assessment needs to change to establish formal credit for collaborative, creative work (which may be better aligned to employment). Meanwhile a prevailing view prevails that mobile devices can be/are used for unethical and even dangerous practices. JW also shares with CP the disappointment that the curriculum in England is not dealing with new & emerging technologies. 

DF in responding to JP comment about cyberbullying that the label ‘cyber’ elevates the panic level. Bullying is an issue whatever the tools or medium. Agrees with CP education is the way to handle it.

DL seeks clarity on the debate there are different threads under discussion: general issue of mobile devices in classrooms (good/bad/a matter of school choice); the problem of cyberbullying (and related dysfunctions) facilitated by personal devices; cyberbullying may or may not be a ‘thing’.

We need to identify convincing evidence to counter arguments that mobile devices make classroom management more challenging or that they reduce effective learning.

Adds link to press story about a similar ban in Ontario.

Adds image to illustrate adult behaviour in formal settings (click for image)

BH replies to DL with image from a Times story about Pisa finding (click for image).

Note added: Times is paywalled – here alternative link to iNews story

RB offers general comment that such a ban suggests that education is no longer regarded as a preparation for adult life but simply about gaining qualifications. Those who see that technology improves learning have a bigger fight about the meaning of ‘education’.

ML responds at length with observations from circa 1971 that bureaucratisation of education was already developing but has now intensified and is more globalised. Cites influence of agencies such as OECD on policy making. Bans on smartphones are part of that widespread politicised control of schooling, resisting change through digital disruption. Technology must be made to fit existing organisational structures. Bureaucratic testing/accountability procedures will be enforced (and mostly paper-based!). Networked technology underpins this environment.

DL responds to ML that if networked technology underpins bureaucratisation this presents a pessimistic outlook for effective technology use.

ML replies that it is people who decide how best to deploy the various media. Micro-management by technology is a choice.

MC offers a response to EHY with example from a New Zealand School – some pupils were reportedly taking indiscreet photos of fellow students undressing for swimming then posting images to social media! Perhaps the smaller smartphones are easier to conceal and thus present more opportunity for such behaviour.

RB responds to DL and extends ML to say that bureaucratisaton depends on simplistic easily collected data that probably doesn’t actually amount to ‘real’ information. It is not underpinned with real attempt to see how ‘educated’ pupils are. However that requires a debate about what ‘being educated’ means instead of a debate about how much subject knowledge kids need.

DM replies to MC that kids can use sporting equipment inappropriately but this does not lead to a state-wide ban on footballs . Doing the wrong thing with resources, including mobile devices is a cause for banning them. All resources contribute towards important educational outcomes.

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