The Greenwich Free School in the UK has published their “Mobile phones Q&A for parents” to explain why they have banned mobile phones for their pupils. The arguments in this paper exemplify the good vs. bad approach to ICT in education as discussed by Neil Selwyn in his book, “Education and Technology: Key Issues and Debates“.
I argue that banning technologies in schools is a regressive step that fails to address the wider issue we are facing as we enter the knowledge age. The issue, as I see it, is one of conception, rather than use. As a technology dependent species, we have a surprisingly undeveloped social and cultural approach to our uses of technologies, including digital technologies. New technologies tend to be heralded as the new best thing that will solve our human ills. Old technologies tend to be dismissed as the old, bad thing, as we learn the negative consequences of long term technology use in terms of environmental degradations, negative social formations, and the extermination of ways of life once held dear.
Rather than banning technologies, perhaps the most important learning activity schools could engage is teaching students and teachers about what it means to be a technologically dependent species. From these conversations, the technological devices we have at hand could become the locus for conversations about how we learn, and why we learn what we learn in schools. These conversations could then lead to the ways we could utilize these digital technologies to accomplish the learning tasks proscribed by the school. These learning tasks can be positioned as some of the learning we might do, not the only learning we can do.