Education, education, education

Confiscating students mobile phones & deleting 'inappropriate material' is just another misplaced step in Michael Gove's plans to improve school discipline, argues Milena Popova

Image: CC-AT-NC-SA Flickr: Jay Wood

In an attempt to take education back to the 19th century enhance discipline in schools, Education Secretary Michael Gove is proposing a variety of new measures and powers for teachers, including the power to confiscate pupils’ mobile phones, search for objectionable content on them and erase it. This is the latest in a series of education policies designed to make today’s children as ill-prepared for the future as possible. Other proposals include the move to “fact-based teaching” and the rewriting of history to fit into a particular, ideologically sound world view.

What’s striking about the mobile phone proposal is that the last time teachers thought this was a good idea was in 1998. The world has moved on a bit since then, with even teaching unions calling the proposed powers disproportionate and inappropriate.

From an education point of view, the idea is positively counter-productive. New technology will not go away just because we ban it from the classroom. Deleting a video of a bullying incident from a phone will not only not stop the distribution of that video, it will erase any evidence of that incident that teachers may ever get access to. Children will either learn how to safeguard their privacy on their phones (which in all fairness would be a good thing) or they will leave school unprepared for the technological challenges of the real world.

The truly sad thing is that mobile phones have huge potential as an educational tool. This article barely scratches the surface of the possible applications of mobile phones in the classroom: use them for accurate timing in science experiments, for looking up information or pictures on the internet (in 40 seconds, rather than the 12 minutes it takes to boot up your bloat-ware-burdened, school-issued laptop); or you could use them in ICT classes to discuss the impact they have had on society, the impact on privacy, and responsible and appropriate use of technology.

There is, however, no room for the future in Michael Gove’s vision of our children’s education, and this is rapidly becoming a problem.


Milena is an economics & politics graduate, an IT manager, and a campaigner for digital rights, electoral reform and women's rights. She tweets as @elmyra


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By Milena Popova on Apr 18, 2011

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