I remember a few decades back, when I was in high school, our principal announced that her biggest concern and top focus was stopping kids from bringing walkmen cassette players to school. This was in a school where there were all of the more typical high school issues, including drugs, weapons and violence. The whole thing seemed so ridiculous. But, apparently, little has changed. We've seen lots of stories over the years, of course, about bans on mobile phones and iPods and the like. But, apparently, banning mobile phones and iPods from schools is becoming government policy in the UK
. At that link, Bill Thompson notes the incongruity between things like mobile phones and iPods compared to other things that are banned (such as weapons and fireworks). But, of course, the reasoning is different. The thinking on phones and MP3 players is to keep kids from getting distracted, and to help teachers keep the attention of kids. In theory.
In a rather apt analogy, Thompson calls the whole thing "discipline theater," akin to "security theater" found at airports:
It will do nothing to improve behaviour in schools where teachers are not respected by their students.
However, it could have a negative impact in other ways, as it enforces the idea that schools are places where "technology" is something out there, a word processor or spreadsheet on a desktop PC to be used for a particular purpose, instead of something that permeates all aspects of our daily lives and is becoming increasingly important.
He also points out that many schools are currently using such mobile devices in innovative ways within the classroom, and setting up a process to keep them out seems backwards. It's too bad that the first reaction of so many people is just to ban such technology rather than (a) looking at ways to use it in a helpful manner or (b) understanding why the technology sometimes acts as a distraction.