Thirty pupils at Gumley House Convent School in London have each been given a free iPhone, with £15 of free credit to buy software from the App Store, in order to help them “learn”.
I am desperately trying to be neutral and not have an opinion on this, but I have to say to the local education authority, local council, board of directors, parents and teachers association, and to staff… What on Earth were you thinking?
The aim is to get the pupils downloading applications such as The Periodic Table of Elements, Shakespeare Scripts, GCSE History Literature, Algebraic Equations and Maths as well as Biblical Scriptures and other literature.
Assistant Headteacher, Stephen Byrne, said: “It’s a very popular scheme at the moment, we carry out spot-checks to monitor what they are downloading. There’s no Facebook in class and the volume must be off”. Well, at least that’s good of them! There is nothing stopping the pupils from using Facebook outside of class however, as they get to carry the phones around and take them home with them.
Each pupil has been told to use the phone for educational purposes (which the local council are funding), and any usage such as personal calls or texts will have to be funded by the pupils (well it’s actually the pupil’s parents but the school may have overlooked that). However, pupils are being awarded for downloading apps which can be shared with teachers and other students – with the children that feedback the most constructive data being given even more itunes vouchers that they can spend however they like!
I have to say, it makes a mockery of the policy of not bringing mobile phones or electronic equipment into school. When I was in school, walkmans, phones, toys, and anything else of any use or value was quickly confiscated for two reasons; to protect the pupil from having it stolen or being attacked in an attempted theft incident, and to maintain focus on learning. How can teachers now tell other students to put their phones and MP3 players away if there are a classroom of pupils carrying iPhones?
There is nothing better than learning by interaction. Actually, human interaction and the act of ‘doing’, so having a great teacher walk you through a science practical, or having a really fun Maths teacher making algebra exciting (if you paid attention in school or have seen the teacher adverts on the TV then you’ll know what I’m talking about). But to get the pupils to put their heads down and into an iPhone has got to be a big mistake.
Stephen Byrne continues, ”We thought we’d give the students the power to do everything”. I have to say, sometimes empowerment can be a bad thing when it affects discipline and learning.
One final quote from the Assitant Headteacher, ”The case for learning by computer has not been proved at all”. Perhaps not. It is however much easier to monitor and control, plus teachers can easily walk around the classroom and view the contents of each pupil’s screen. However, if there is no case for learning by computer, then why would there be a case for learning by phone? The only thing that is proven in my opinion is learning by textbook and by interaction.
There must be some people who disagree with me out there, and plenty who agree I imagine, so please give us your feedback as we’re desperate to hear what you have to say.