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Teaching, not trouble

Sam Blyth talks to ET about how mobile technology can help rather than hinder the teaching process

Posted by Charley Rogers | May 18, 2017 | People

Don’t Ban Mobiles, Bring Them Into the Classroom

Like dogs and postmen, teachers and mobile phones have always been natural opponents. Research by Canvas has highlighted this, finding that a majority of teachers feel mobile technology distracts students from learning. One in three have gone as far as banning mobile phones from their classrooms entirely. This tech distrust has extended beyond the classroom and into the playground, as one school in Middlesbrough recently banned parents from looking at their phones while waiting to collect their children.

With so much negative sentiment towards personal devices in schools, there doesn’t seem to be much of a path for those who say that bring your own device (BYOD) is a benefit to teaching and learning. However, Canvas research found that there is hope, with three quarters (74%) of teachers saying that when integrated effectively and used as an educational tool rather than a leisure device, mobile technology can make their jobs significantly easier.

Implementation, Implementation, Implementation

Facilitating the use of mobile tech in schools is crucial to the success of any BYOD project, but it is not without its hurdles. Resigned to the idea that mobile phones are nothing but a distraction, most teachers don’t have the time or inclination to introduce personal devices into their classroom - so the edtech industry needs to demonstrate their value as educational tools that make teaching and learning easier.

Almost every child will have a smartphone in their pocket, but will probably be more used to using it for texting than times tables. Fortunately, the transition to pedagogical use can start with something as simple as downloading an app, which is both easy for students to understand and easy for teachers to incorporate into their lessons. On the edtech side of the equation, providing an intuitive app is a great way to introduce new teaching and learning techniques, without adding another layer of stress for teachers.

Even outside of the tech industry, demand for technical skills are growing - with organisations looking for employees who are digitally proficient.

Security

A key concern for many BYOD sceptics is security; specifically the issue of ensuring that any information stored and shared on personal devices is safe. This is an area that should be a high priority for all education technology purveyors - especially when their systems are being used by children in schools - but shouldn’t be a roadblock in introducing BYOD. 

By taking some simple steps, such as introducing a secure cloud-based filing system, and changing passwords frequently, any risk to personal data can be decreased significantly. With these precautions in place, the possibilities of a BYOD policy can expand, taking learning beyond the classroom and allowing students to learn in their own space.

Looking forward

It has been predicted that by 2020 the number of tech jobs will have increased by more than a fifth, with roles from IT manager to web developer growing in number. Even outside of the tech industry, demand for technical skills are growing - with organisations looking for employees who are digitally proficient. By introducing mobile devices into their classrooms, schools will be able to take the lead in providing students with the skills they will need to succeed in their working lives, and nurture the talents of the new generation of digital natives. 

So, if implemented intelligently, and secured well, BYOD can be a force for pedagogical change, giving teachers more options, more tools and more resources for improving teaching and learning. If we as edtech providers work with teachers to provide straightforward and intuitive mobile resources, we create an environment where getting a mobile phone out in class means teaching, not trouble.

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