Laboring the Obvious

Following the lead of France and Ontario, the Victorian Labor government has decided to ban mobile phones in government classes. One stated reason is to combat cyberbullying, but they’re probably lying. The good and blatantly obvious reason is that smart phones destroy concentration.

Still, any change, no matter how compelling, will have its detractors. There is the idiotic argument that the ban is unenforceable; the claim is almost certainly false, but if true points to such a profound loss of authority that schools may as well just give up entirely. And, there is the argument – one in a stream of tendentious half-truths – that occasionally the internet is down, meaning a lesson can only continue aided by a mobile’s hotspot. The argument is based upon a falsehood but in any case is much worse than wrong; any teacher so addicted to the internet for their teaching may first wish to heal thyself. They may also wish to consider a new profession. Please.

And of course there is discussion of the suggested educational benefits of smart phones, proving only that there is no idea so idiotic that some educational hack cannot be found to support it.

Luckily, it would appear that the Labor government is holding firm, and students will be able to get back to the intended lessons. On their fucking iPads.

6 Replies to “Laboring the Obvious”

  1. If I was going to build a porch for my house, I would think about what I wanted to build and then decide on the best tools for building it. I wouldn’t think about what tools I wanted to use and then decide on what porch I could build. The use of ‘screens’ (my coverall for iPhones, iPads, laptops etc.) should be considered in the same light.

    I hadn’t come across the argument for the iPhone being needed for a ‘hotspot’. That’s really funny. Any teacher that can’t run an effective lesson if the internet drops out, who doesn’t have an effective plan B, needs to be putting a whole lot more thought and preparation into their lesson.

    Some points I’d like to make:

    1. The use of screens has removed the need to carry a ton of textbooks around.

    2. Screens can be effectively used to engage students in a task.

    3. Software (or aps) only accessible via a screen (eg. Mathematica) is often required.

    4. These days, students often take notes and screenshots during a lesson using screens.

    Screens often get misused in the classroom, by the teacher and very often by the student (because of lack of vigilance by the teacher). This does not make them intrinsically bad. But it does mean that a lot of thought and vigilance by the teacher is required. And it definitely means that unless a screen is the best tool for the job, it shouldn’t be used or sitting on a desk ready to be ‘used’.

    I don’t know what training pre-service teachers get today to ensure that screens are used because they’re the best tool for the job. It sometimes seems that using the screen is the default go-to plan.

    I don’t like phones in the classroom, because they can be far too easily misused by students and (I’ll be honest) I sometimes find it difficult to exercise complete vigilance over their use. I have less of a problem enabling the use of iPads and lesser of a problem with a laptop.

    Like it or not, screens are pervasive in all aspects of society. The role of the teacher is to ensure that they are the best tool for the job when used in the classroom, and that they don’t get misused. Not an easy thing to do.

    What I’d really like to see debate on is the push for VCAA maths exams to be done entirely on-line. Given the many well-documented disasters sitting the Naplan on-line, why would you ever go down that path? Except to save money …?? (And don’t get me started about marking exams on-line).

    1. Thanks, John, and sorry to be so slow to respond.

      Fundamentally, I disagree with you: I believe that screens *are* intrinsically bad. And the “Like it or not, screens are pervasive” statement, though undoubtedly true, means nothing to me here; people who voted for Scott Morrison are also pervasive. But I’m not writing to tell people what to do about the pervasiveness of screens or idiots, since I think there’s nothing we can do. I’m just writing to point out the horribleness of it.

      In any case, I’ll leave the universal claim of screens’ awfulness for another day. As to the four points you make:

      1. True, though the weight of textbooks would much much less if it weren’t for the awful filler they invariably contain.

      2. I don’t believe you. Or, at least I believe the majority of such “engagement” fails to engage students in anything except the engagement. You’ll have to convince me otherwise. (Not here: I’ll post at some point to have that battle.)

      3. This presumes the apps themselves have any worth in schools. See point 2.

      4. Yeah, yeah.

  2. Hey Marty. I’ve just noticed you’ve incorporated a new feature – Click to Edit. Nice feature. (Except it means that now I have to read what I submit!)

  3. I would not say that the ban is unenforceable … but I will be interested to see how it is enforced, and the success of the policy.

    1. It’s enforceable in the classroom. All you have to do is say “Johnny, put down that phone NOW, and pick up your iPad!”

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