In a word, the answer to this question is yes.
Smartphones are becoming a highly relevant and useful tool for the primary classroom. With more and more young people owning Smartphones, the concept of BYOD (Bring your own device) is gaining popularity everywhere, including Ireland.
Some would argue that schools should be providing children with the hardware to perform whatever tasks they might need to do as it prevents security issues or misuse of technology. For example, if a child brings their own device into school, the school has little control over what apps might be on it or what the child might do with their phone (for example, taking inappropriate photos or videos in class)
Others suggest that children bringing in their own devices essentially covers up the lack of investment in technology by government agencies. While this is probably very true, there is also an argument out there that we should be moving to a world where hardware shouldn’t be owned by schools and students (and teachers) should be able to use their own devices wherever they are. The school should provide a good infrastructure for devices to be used.
A Smartphone can effectively replace any of the following resources that schools often use: calculators, atlases, copybooks, encyclopaedia, dictionaries, translation dictionaries, thesauruses, homework journals, postcards for photos, textbooks(?), and many others. A teacher can differentiate work more easily by assigning different tasks to different phones and so on.
However, it would be naive to ignore the risks involved in allowing unmonitored mobile phone usage go ahead in a school. While the risks are potentially very damaging, I would suggest, it’s the misbehaviours that need to be stamped out, not the phones. In a democratic classroom, the following decisions need to be made between the teacher and his/her students: when can phones be used, for what purpose, what are the consequences for misuse of phones, etc.
Given that Ireland seriously lags behind other countries in terms of investment in ICT, the government may have accidentally paved the way for BYOD as an alternative. However, they now must invest strongly in Broadband, Technical Support and Infrastructure to support its use.
Last Update: March 28, 2018
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