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July 9, 2010 / Mervyn Dinnen

Should Schools Go Social?

Whilst we wrestle with the various dilemmas, opportunities and pitfalls of social media policy in the workplace, I’ve yet to see anyone advocate a banning of mobile phones. I appreciate that we’re in much more enlightened times…mobile phones are no longer an accessory; they’re an extension of one’s being, they’re a vital networking and communications medium.

So it was with some surprise that I learned from my son that his phone had been confiscated by his school because he had it switched on during the day. He wasn’t looking at it during lessons, but between lessons…he wasn’t phoning or texting, but reading a text that he had received. Seems that the school has a zero tolerance policy towards mobiles…they must be switched off on entering school and not switched on again till outside the school gates.

15/16 year old boys being, well…15/16 year old boys, no-one switches them off. They leave them on silent in their pockets just in case a mate or girlfriend (hell, never a parent) sends them a text.

Now, as part of this policy, the punishment is confiscation until a PARENT comes to collect the phone. This makes me unhappy, because:

1) it’s like I am being punished as I now have to take time out of work to go pick it up, and

2) as well as a communication device, the phone is there for security in case he is in trouble/needs help

Once this irritancy had subsided though, I started to think of a wider issue. We are all talking of embracing social learning, and undoubtedly mobile learning will follow, so no doubt this will eventually be adopted by schools…yet surely if we want to instil good learning habits in tomorrow’s workforce we have to start those habits today. Shouldn’t schools be leading the way?

This is, after all, our teenager’s medium. Their platform. Social networking is in their DNA!

Half the boy’s in my son’s class have a smartphone (it’s an all boys school, in case you’re running away with the idea that there is a separate rule for girls!), so theoretically they could do some homework, read notes or generally catch up on missed topics whilst on their journey to & from school, or whilst on the move in some way.

I have typed this blogpost on my iPhone on the train journey home and sent it to my wordpress account…couldn’t my son do likewise with homework? With work becoming mobile, why not schoolwork? Why does it have to be done in a classroom or at home?

There is a school intranet, so why do boys have to go home, type their notes/essays on to a computer and print them off to hand in? Why not post it into a teacher’s file set up for individual pieces of work? Why not make the intranet into a social network? Give them the opportunity to share thoughts and information with teachers and each other in a way that will prepare them for the brave new business world of the future?

The world is going social.

The world is going mobile.

Continuous learning & development, upskilling and evolving, will be crucial for tomorrow’s workforce…wonder if anyone is brave enough to start preparing them now.

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2 Comments

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  1. Universitas Mercu Buana / Jul 9 2010 2:29 PM

    I really liked this information. Thanks

  2. Amy Canada / Jul 9 2010 2:32 PM

    To be incorporated into the lesson, every student would need to have the same or similar equipment, but would the school provide or would parents be required? (That could be another whole blog post; some parents would not like it or could not comply.)

    The other examples you give are outside of the classroom.; hall between classes, lunchtime, after school. Inside the classroom, it’s a distraction from the lesson to be reading the texts, and too much of a temptation for those kids who wouldn’t follow the “read only” and “only between lessons” parameters you list. The teachers have enough to try to keep student’s attention.

    Classes in secondary school that teach computers/technology should definitely be adding Social Media tools, uses, and etiquette to the lesson plan. And more colleges should be moving to add courses into their media or communications majors.

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