Ban First, Ask Questions Later... The Problem with Calls to Ban Mobile Devices (updated)
(originally posted March 2, 2016)
I read the article Schools that Ban Mobile Devices See Better Results on the bus this morning. It is from May 2015, but someone had reposted the @guardian piece to my @Twitter feed. From my perspective as a mobile learning researcher, it presented troubling research findings:
"Effect of ban on phones adds up to equivalent of extra week of classes over a pupil’s school year" (Doward, 2015)
A blanket ban on mobile devices because they distract learners is just the latest in a centuries-old trend of resisting technological change out of fear of the unknown. Steve Howard (2012, July 14) pointed out that as far back as 1815 a school principal fought against the introduction of paper and ink, and lamented that:
Students today depend on paper too much. They don’t know how to write on a slate without getting chalk dust all over themselves. They can’t clean a slate properly. What will they do when they run out of paper?
I have predicated my mobile learning research to date on the problem that teachers and schools are the barriers to effective integration of mobile technologies because they lack confidence in the technology. The problem is NOT that mobile devices are allowed into schools. The problem is that we are not preparing teachers and schools for an environment of ubiquitous access to technology. From my dissertation (Power, 2015, p. 11):
Ally (2014) noted that teacher training continues to be based on an outdated education system model that does not adequately prepare teachers to integrate mobile technologies into teaching practice. Lack of training in the pedagogical considerations for the integration of a specific type of technology can have a negative impact upon teachers’ perceptions of self-efficacy (Kenny et al, 2010).
However, preparing teachers to leverage educational technology is not enough. We must also prepare students. Yes, if you let students who have had no guidance access mobile devices, then there is huge potential for them to be distracted. But, if you teach them digital citizenship and responsible use, there is less likelihood of distraction. And they will be better prepared for a world with near universal technology permeation. You cannot teach digital citizenship or responsible technology use with black and white policies of either banning all devices, or letting them all in. Unfortunately, the information technology support departments (and bureaucracies) of too many school systems (and higher education institutions) still operate with Acceptable Use Policies, which explicitly detail what is permissible and what is not. In contrast, Responsible Use Policies focus on making appropriate decisions about when and how to use technology. (Joe Countryman, Mary-Ann Vardakas & Melissa Taffe did a presentation on this, and prepared a wikipage about it for a Problem-Based Learning activity in the Digital Tools for Knowledge Construction course I teach at University of Ontario Institute of Technology.)
Before policy makers, or the public at large, jump to the conclusion that the statistics presented in the Guardian (and also on CNN) point to the need for an outright ban on mobile devices in education, a number of questions should be considered:
- How do students perform at schools that have planned for mobile technology integration?
- How do students perform in classes where teachers have been prepared to make effective educational technology integration choices?
- What factors are creating barriers to effectively leveraging mobile technologies in the schools polled in this research? And what can be done to overcome those barriers?
- Better prepare teachers to integrate technology in teaching and learning practice
- Teach digital literacy and digital citizenship
- Adopt Responsible Use policies
Ally, M. & Prieto-Blázquez, J. (2014). What is the future of mobile learning in education? Mobile Learning Applications in Higher Education [Special Section]. Revista de Universidad y Sociedad del Conocimiento (RUSC), 11(1), 142-151. doi http://doi.dx.org/10.7238/rusc.v11i1.2033
Countryman, J., Vardakas, M., & Taffe, M. (2016). Acceptable use policies. Retrieved from http://educ5101jmm.pbworks.com/w/page/104432989/PBL%201%20-%20Group%204%20-%20Acceptable%20Use%20Policies
Doward, J. (2015, May 16). Schools that ban mobile phones see better academic results. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/education/2015/may/16/schools-mobile-phones-academic-results
Flanagan, R. (2018, May 30). PC platform includes ban on cellphones in schools. CTV News Kitchener. Retrieved from kitchener.ctvnews.ca/pc-platform-includes-ban-on-cellphones-in-classrooms-1.3952316#_gus&_gucid=&_gup=twitter&_gsc=Qi5DSUU
Howard, S. (2012, July 14). The ruin of education in our country – A positive thing [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://stevehoward999.wordpress.com/2012/07/14/the-ruin-of-education-in-our-country-a-positive-thing/
Kenny, R.F., Park, C.L., Van Neste-Kenny, J.M.C., & Burton, P.A. (2010). Mobile self-efficacy in Canadian nursing education programs. In M. Montebello, V. Camilleri and A. Dingli (Eds.), Proceedings of mLearn 2010, the 9th World Conference on Mobile Learning, Valletta, Malta.
METTL (2015). The Homer Simpson guide to online assessments [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://mettl.com/blog/2015/08/the-homer-simpson-guide-to-psychometric-assessments/
Power, R. (2015). A framework for promoting teacher self-efficacy with mobile reusable learning objects (Doctoral dissertation, Athabasca University). Available from http://hdl.handle.net/10791/63
Power, R. (2016, March 2). Ban First, Ask Questions Later... The Problem with Calls to Ban Mobile Devices. [Web log post]. The xPat_Letters Blog. Available from http://robpower74.blogspot.com/2016/03/ban-first-ask-questions-later-problem.html
Willsher, K. (2017, December 11). France to ban mobile phones in schools from September. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/dec/11/france-to-ban-mobile-phones-in-schools-from-september