Smartphones and education: neither “free bar” nor “dry law”

Jose Luis Orihuela
Oct 13, 2018 · 2 min read

France began the school year by opening the ban on the use of mobile phones in schools, while Spain has announced the problem will be tackled.

The controversy is served because the limits of the measure are diffuse (what devices, up to what ages, what is considered “pedagogical use”, etc.) and because the fundamental issue, which is the necessary digital literacy of the new generations, remains unsolved.

Parents’ concerns and the protection of teachers seem to be at the origin of a regulation that confronts the experts because it does nothing more than subtract the problem from the only area where it can be faced in time, which is school.

As usual, it is easier to demonize technology instead of asking the right questions, such as who is going to educate students on a wise use of connectivity and what teaching applications can take advantage of the enormous cognitive potential of devices such as tablets, smartwatches, activity sensors and, of course, smartphones.

It is not about promulgating a “free bar” of connectivity in class, but about assuming that a “dry law” is not a reasonable solution since it only serves as an excuse for those who are afraid to change.

If digital literacy exceeds the capacity of parents and is not assumed in educational institutions, then it should not be surprising that the problems the prohibition seeks to tackle are only hidden under the carpet.

As usual, it is easier to demonize technology instead of asking the right questions, such as who is going to educate students on a wise use of connectivity.

It is necessary to address in class issues such as the construction of the digital identity from the contents that are shared and the language used. We must analyze nefarious practices such as the popularization of hate speech and harassment, we must train new generations to detect and filter false news, we must train them self-defense techniques against security breaches, identity theft, and theft of devices.

On the other hand, it is necessary to integrate in a positive sense the new technological tools as didactic resources, just like it was done before with books, maps, libraries, laboratories, and computer rooms.

We have to learn how to teach again, and that is something that terrifies teachers because it places them in an unfamiliar territory and forces them to face accelerated learning curves. But we have to do it.

By leaving connectivity devices out of the classroom, we are also leaving out of school the responsibility of educating students about technologies that, more radically, already define their world and their culture.

Jose Luis Orihuela

Written by

Profesor universitario, conferenciante y escritor. Professor, Speaker and Writer. Cultura digital. Digital culture.

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