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Exploring the Mobile Phone Debate in Education: Insights from Dan Worth 

We caught up with Dan Worth, Senior Editor at TES to discuss mobile phone usage in education. Read the full interview below:
Who are you and what is your role within the sector? 
I'm Dan Worth, the Senior Editor at Tes Magazine. My role encompasses overseeing diverse content for Tes Magazine, particularly focusing on English education policy, school and trust leadership and international education. 
What topic are you going to be speaking on at a tech innovate? 
I'm on a session which discusses the topic of mobile phone use in the classroom and school in general – a topic that seems to reappear in the headlines regularly with no clear-cut answer. 
What are your thoughts on the various challenges within this debate? How do you see the conversation unfolding? 

I think there's certainly a percentage of concerns revolving around behaviour within schools, and the potential role mobile phones play in either facilitating or exacerbating those issues.  

This means some say there's a strong argument advocating for an outright ban on mobile phones in schools. Conversely, other schools that embrace technology by providing one-on-one devices, recognising the educational benefits and preparing students for a tech-driven world. 

This decision seems to be heavily influenced by each school's unique context, educational philosophy, technological infrastructure, and the maturity level of their students.  

Even where a school thinks it has the situation well managed there can always be challenges that emerge due to the evolving nature of technology, such as artificial intelligence. 

That’s why sessions like these can be invaluable to hear perspectives from individuals in the sector, to gain insights into different approaches and emerging issues. 

Why do you think people are so divided on this topic? 
I think each side can make good arguments for their stance which means it’s easier to pick a side and argue for that, rather than try and meet in the middle - reminiscent of many modern debates.  

For example if you fully believe in the power of mobile phones, you can make a compelling case: they are ubiquitous, we all use them, they've changed the world in so many ways, we know their potential and children will one day have to use them, so we should embrace them in school.  

On the other hand, sceptics view phones as distractions and detractors from genuine educational experiences. They question the necessity of incorporating them into the classroom when past generations thrived without them. So why should the next generation need them?  

It often comes down to the context of your school environment and the leadership ethos within that school or trust but it is important we have space for this debate to try and help each side recognise the validity of what the others say and how this may help adapt approaches. 

Access to technology can be significant barrier for some students. What, in your opinion, are the key challenges to ensuring people have equal access to technology in education? 

It's a significant issue that resonates with many trusts and schools I've spoken to. For instance, I had a conversation with a trust in Cornwall where they have a one-to-one iPad program that they see as crucial for ensuring equity among students and a level playing field for education. 

That comes with many challenges though: Who covers the costs? How do you handle device breakages? Who is responsible for keeping it updated? These are questions that need careful consideration and can’t be quickly dismissed. 

Ultimately, each setting must decide its approach based on its unique circumstances I think what is key though is if you do want to use technology in your setting you have to ensure equal access for all students.

You've attended the Schools and Academies Show previously, so what was your experience like? Is there anything you're anticipating at EdTech Innovate? 

I've attended numerous shows and each one has been a really interesting and engaging event. While the main stage presentations always have a lot to offer I find the various side stages can be really interesting too to uncover numerous areas of innovation, challenge and debate within the sector, and you usually find plenty of discussion coming from the audience too, which makes for a vibrant event. 

For us at Tes Magazine this is just what we want to hear to help inform our content for our audience of education professionals at all career stages.  

Key Takeaways: 

- There is no one-size-fits-all approach to mobile phone use in schools. 

- Both sides of the debate present valid arguments, necessitating context-specific solutions. 

- Equitable access to technology is crucial but presents challenges in cost and maintenance. 

- Open discussion, shared experiences, and collaborative efforts are key to navigating the changing landscape of technology within education.  

Twitter: @DanWorth 

Remember, the debate on mobile phones in schools is far from over. Join the conversation at #EdTechInnovate and help shape the future of education! 

So, if you’d like to hear more from our incredible speakers make sure you secure your place  for free now!   

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