Mobile phones: a force for good?

Schools should offer courses in the entrepreneurial use of technology – including phones

Pupils today have grown up in a world where the ubiquity of mobile phones is a given, yet too many schools have maintained attitudes toward phone-use that are trapped in the past. At Framlingham College, I oversee our IT infrastructure in the classroom, and share the entrepreneurial, forward-thinking spirit which energises the school and its pupils. This is at the root of my belief that phones should be a fundamental part of the curriculum.

The accepted wisdom that phones have no place in school was brought to the fore again recently as China instituted a nationwide ban on mobile phone use in schools. However, I argue that instead, we must recognise mobile phones for the incredible learning aids that they are and encourage pupils to use them productively for filmmaking, photography, app development and more. Phones aren’t just platforms for mindless social media scrolling; they can fit in everywhere from a business studies lesson to the art studio.

Entrepreneurs of the future

As the pandemic has made painfully clear, it will be impossible to create the businesses of the future without a fundamental understanding of online commerce. If schools take their role in equipping tomorrow’s entrepreneurs seriously, they must embrace contemporary technology and encourage pupils to use it productively.

“Pupils today have grown up in a world where the ubiquity of mobile phones is a given, yet too many schools have maintained attitudes toward phone-use that are trapped in the past”

At Framlingham, for example, we’ve made IT a cross-curricular subject, acknowledging the role that technology plays in every modern field. Our BTEC courses include website design and developing digital marketing strategies.

Extracurricular activities have also embraced technology wholeheartedly, with several clubs involving filming on pupils’ phones to meet a business brief. As my colleague John Harrod, director of computer science at Framlingham College, notes, mobiles include all the tools required for entry-level film making, including access to professional editing software. If schools were offered this a few decades ago, they would have leapt at the opportunity, not banned it from the classroom.

Freedom to create

One only needs to look as far as Twitch or TikTok to see how young people exercise creativity through their mobile devices.

Coding and app development are productive skills that drive the modern economy. John teaches coding and app development using Visual Studio, providing students with the opportunity to engage with several different programming environments for mobile apps. This raises a separate point: it’s important for teachers to receive training for mobile app development – they can then help pupils become comfortable with industry-standard tools and languages.

“Coding and app development are productive skills that drive the modern economy”

Working in this way has yielded incredible results. One Year 13 pupil developed a table booking app for his father’s restaurant business, while our computer science scholars developed a QR code treasure hunt for our prep school open day last year.

It’s easy to envisage a future where we offer courses in the entrepreneurial use of personal technology – including phones – as a standard part of the curriculum.

Tomorrow’s art

Away from business, we understand that digital art is a valid form of expression. Our head of art has long encouraged students to use laptops, iPads and phones to create. For instance, younger students learn to produce stop motion animations using built-in software and purpose-built apps.

Pupils feel comfortable using their phones to take photographs, to film and to edit images, and a supportive school must encourage this. Providing individual resources for each student is extremely costly, but students already carry around cutting-edge creative tools in their pockets.

Employable global citizens

Schools are designed to prepare students for the real world. If we’re to turn our children and young adults into global citizens and increase their employment prospects, we must encourage them to use their phones constructively. It’s as simple as that.

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