It’s for you, Mr Glibbly…

Last week one of All Change Please!‘s faithful followers commented in a Tweet to the effect that that its attempt to explain music education to Mr Glibbly was about as likely to succeed as getting Trump to understand how climate change worked. Undeterred, and doubtless with just as little success, this week All Change Please! bravely sits Mr Glibbly down in a nice comfy chair and patiently tries to explain to him the importance of mobile phones to a child’s education…

No-one would doubt the importance of teaching children how to read, write and do arithmetic, because they are necessities, and we all need to need be fluent and confident in them as a necessity to get us through life. There are of course other important areas of knowledge, understanding and skill we need to learn as well, and an increasingly important one has become our use of mobile ‘smart’ devices. It’s not enough to simply know how to switch them on and off – we need to learn when it’s appropriate to use them, and more importantly when not to use them. On-line safety and being able to identify fake news and political propaganda are also essential for children to learn.

In particular our children need to go forth into the digital world with a mindset that will enable them to comprehend the further changes to mobile communication devices that will inevitably occur during their lifetimes (which may well extend into the 22nd Century). They need to be to able to critically evaluate such developments, and most importantly to know how to use them to continue to effectively learn from them, as they will need to to long after they have left formal education. And what’s the point of learning how to code in school if you don’t have access to the devices your program will be used on? Banning mobile phones outright in schools may make a good Daily Mail headline today, but prepares our children for none of these things.

The smartphone has emerged as probably the most disruptive technology of the century. Yet, barely 10 years old, it is still in its infancy – we are going to be carrying around internet connected computers and communication devices for a lot longer yet, and they will continue to evolve to become smaller, more powerful and connected than they are now. But despite its youth the smart phone has already become integral and central to social and workplace interaction, and is used by every social level to apply for permanent and temporary jobs (not to mention UK residency), arrange childcare, organise the weekly delivery of shopping, keep up to date with the news, check transport times and conditions, watch movies, listen to and compose music, take photos, dictate memos, monitor one’s health and bank account, etc. Meanwhile in the workplace they are used to access and analyse data, organise shifts, send emails and messages and so on. Indeed last year, the United Nations Human Rights Council declared that the internet was a basic human right.

Of course the real problem isn’t mobile phones at all, it’s often the content and delivery methods currently used by teachers in the classroom that fails to engage children sufficiently to the extent that they don’t feel the need to be distracted by them, at least for purposes that are not directly related to what they are supposed to be learning.

But for now, many teachers seem quite capable of enforcing the simple rule that mobile phones should only be used in class as directed by, or with the permission of, the teacher. If a teacher isn’t capable of doing that, they shouldn’t be in the classroom in the first place.

But let’s leave the last word to Christine Swan, who recently tweeted:

Well, not quite the last word. Here’s a text All Change Please! posted back in September 2015.

All Change Please! decided to undertake some virtually unreal digging, and somehow managed to convince itself it had found the following letter in the archives of the Times newspapers.

Dateline: September 1915. The London Times Letters page.
Sir. – It has come to my attention that schools are now in the habit of providing children with these new mass-produced pencils and notepad devices which seem to becoming increasingly popular as an alternative to the tried and tested slate. I have been so informed that they often use them as a distraction to play noughts and crosses on, and to write messages to each other which often contain offensive words and rude comments about their teachers. In some of the worst and most unruly schools they have also used them to draw rude depictions of famous women on. It is my opinion that they are used far too often as a pacifier by teachers who can’t control classes. Whilst I am convinced these new pencil and paper devices are no more than a passing fad, writing on them should only be allowed with the greatest caution and only when supervised and directed by an academically well-qualified and experienced teacher. Of course it will also be essential to regularly check that pencils and associated carrying devices are of the correct length and of uniform colour, adding significantly to the teacher’s workload.

There is no research evidence to support ideas that using pencils and paper aids a child’s education, and the cost to taxpayers of replacing these throw-away items on a regular basis is horrific. There are those who say children should be given pencils and paper because they enjoy learning with them, but the reality is that they just enjoy using pencils and paper. Parents who allow their children to stay up late writing and drawing with the result that they arrive at school tired should have scholarship money withdrawn.

The traditional slate is of the ideal size, proportion, weight and appearance to work with, and it is my sincere hope that one day schools will sensibly return to some sort of similar device that can be used with or without one of these new ‘pencils’.

Meanwhile I am also of the firm belief that there is absolutely no need for children to have access to encyclopedias from which they are likely to learn about things we do not necessarily want them to. Teachers must cease telling children to refer to them to complete their homework, which is like guiding them to a library without a librarian. Teachers also have a duty to point out the frequent mistakes that occur in them.

Yours, &c.,
No Change Please!

Did you get all that Mr Glibbly? No, thought not…