They talked about doing it, and now they did it. France is banning mobile phones from the classroom. Politicians and executives overseeing education will likely applaud the move, as will the parents who have a never ending battle with their children and their devices. But this won't accomplish anything other than increase the resentment from the current generation of students.
The problem in schools
Mobile phones are seen as the root of all problems in the classrooms. Children spend too much time texting, and on social media, and that's ruining their desire to learn. Really? Do people really believe this? Let's flip this question somewhat: if mobile phones are so easily distracting students in the classroom, is what they are learning, and the way they are learning it, that interesting?
I want to be clear here and say that it's not teachers that are the problem, but the directors, education boards, and government agencies that surround education that have largely stripped the ability of teachers to be able to speak to their individual class by creating curricula around what needs to be taught and how. Most lessons now 'teach to the test' to ensure the school gets a good grade. Add to that the fact that most of the activities suggested to teach those curriculum points are dry and boring, and you see that teachers are hamstrung.
Students that are craving social attention and opportunities to interact are now drawn to digital devices that do social so well. So will banning mobile phones solve the problem? No. Because teachers will still need to teach in the same way and students will still have the same boring lessons.
Time for a change
Digital has enveloped every single part of our lives. We do everything so differently using our mobile phones that if we all decided to give them up (an impossibility, I know), we wouldn't know what to do with ourselves. Even right now, I'm typing this post on my phone while waiting for the bus. What would I be doing instead of that, just wait here?
But by telling students that they can't use mobile phones in the classroom, we are simply saying that mobiles are just for adults and they don't really understand what mobiles are for. How patronizing. Especially since adults spend almost as much time on social media as their children. In the same vein, we are telling students that mobile phones are only for entertainment, not for anything useful. But adults use their mobile phones everyday to work and play, couldn't students do the same? Yes they could.
The real problem is that the way that mobile phones are being used in the classroom is wrong in that they aren't being incorporated into lessons. Of course they are in some classrooms, but those are the ones that have teachers that have flexibility in the way they teach and have the time to design appropriate lesson plans. That's not every teacher.
Shifting the focus
What we need is a shift in the support we provide teachers. We need governments to recognise that teachers need quality products. And we need companies to design them. The problem is that there isn't money in designing digital educational products that work, there's money in designing digital educational programs that track students' data and sell those data to marketers. This is why we've seen an explosion of 'personalised learning'.
Until there are directors that understand the power of technology in education (it has reformed every aspect of our lives and it will do so in education) and teachers and parents step in and ask for quality products and an ability to moderate how mobile phones can be used in the classroom (imagine a 'school' button that ensures only qualified educational products have access to mobile services), nothing will change.
As adults, we have the burden of ensuring that our children grow up with the skills to navigate the world around them. Taking away mobile phones from them will not help them learn to moderate how to use those devices. It's just playing right into the hands of mobile developers. With this move by France, the future looks a little less bright.