The humble pencil. It exists as a writing and drawing tool. Great things have come about as a result of this tool, both in terms of education and world-changing influence. But the pencil also makes for an excellent weapon. It can be used as a missile or a dagger.
The mobile phone. It exists as a communication and research tool. Great things have come about as a result of this tool, both in terms of education and world-changing influence. But the mobile phone also makes for an excellent weapon. It can be used as a distraction or to emotionally injure.
Got teenagers who stay up all night using their phones? This might help. Post continues below.
We allow pencils in schools despite their potential danger because we know they assist in the learning environment. Children understand the intended purpose of a pencil, yet children are smart enough and creative enough to know that it can also be used as a weapon. When the novelty of a pencil has worn off, responsibility tends to dominate its use. Yes, there is always the risk that children will resort to using a pencil as a weapon, but it is our responsibility as adults to instil values that help children to make wise and caring choices. When children falter, we have a responsibility to help them learn from their mistakes, to restore damaged relationships, and to work towards behavioural improvement in the future. Confiscation may form part of this process for a period of time.
In today’s world of mobile devices, we must balance the risk posed by technology with the opportunities and benefits of technology. And, in the school context, we have two options.
The first option is that we can transparently bring some of our students’ biggest questions to the surface and see these as teachable moments, with the goal of maturing our children in a world of cybersafety. Not dissimilar to a protractor, compass, or old-school library catalogue, we can endeavour to teach the correct and safe way to use a device, empowering students to then use it as a tool to support discovery and learning. This option requires great effort and commitment from an entire community and it won’t always be a smooth ride. Mistakes will happen along the way. But we know that when we authentically trust and support children with responsibility, such as monitoring their own technology use and weighing it up against their ultimate goals, they generally rise to the challenge.
Option two, by contrast, is to simply ban devices thereby teaching nothing. The latter is a quick and easy perceived solution to cyber safety and classroom focus. The problem with option two, however, is that children will simply evade the ban – boldly or by stealth – and adults’ ability to educate on safe usage will be lost.
The banning of mobile phones in NSW, Victoria, WA and now Tasmanian state schools serves to maintain the novelty of phones in the eyes of students. It aligns with ‘quick and easy’ option two. While mobile phones are seen as a novelty, we can be guaranteed that experimentation and underground activity will be the likely outcome. We are essentially making a rod for our community’s back in the long term.