Plus ça change…

When I was at school, I abused the latest learning technology. I ripped pages out of my exercise books and I wrote messages in pen or pencil to my mates and others in the class. Some were funny, many complimentary, others less so. I was not alone.

The impact of this activity on learning was mitigated by three factors. Vigilant teacher awareness, timely teacher intervention and effective teacher feedback on more appropriate behaviour which, in turn, led to increasing self regulation.

It worked. My behaviour changed and I stopped this habit, with its potentially negative consequences for others; as an older teenager, at university and at work. I learned. And I benefitted enormously as a result of maximising the positive outcomes of communicating effectively with that technology. 

That was almost fifty years ago. The latest learning technology has changed out of all recognition. But the potential for its misuse has not. And nor perhaps has the approach to effectively harnessing its potential so that young people today can also communicate and learn positively together. As I and others did with the available technology, in the past.

If the last eighteen months of the pandemic have taught us anything it is surely that the creative use of mobile technology is absolutely central to young people’s learning. As it is to their everyday communication, their leisure habits and, of course, their futures.  In all those contexts, there is the potential for its misuse. However, just as I and my friends did not have the essential tools of our learning, our exercise books, pens or pencils banned from the classroom, why now do that with mobile phones? Now of all times. 

As in the past, those same three factors, teacher knowledge, teacher intervention and teacher feedback can surely promote the same learning, behaviour change and progress in relation to mobile technology that prevented an apocalyptic collapse of learning for previous generations. Because its all about learning. With technology. 

After all, great learning surely comes down to the feedback that a young person receives on the activity that they have been asked to undertake. What follows – progress – is their internalisation of that feedback and voluntary application of it to any subsequent, related activity. In this context, in place of banning them, why not therefore consider the appropriate use of mobile phones as precisely that; a discrete, classroom learning activity on which they receive real time feedback, to inform subsequent use. 

And its also in this learning context that the SafeToNet app offers the technology to support teachers to do precisely that. Its educational power lies in a smart keyboard that detects risks in real-time, providing feedback on the nature of the message that could be otherwise sent. Using this technology, as part of structured learning experience, with teacher and student working together in a feedback process could make the proactive use, rather than banning, of mobile phones a positive step forward in effective behaviour management strategies for schools. 

Author: Derek Peaple, Head of Education, SafeToNet


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