Very recently, the Ghana Education Service (GES) expressed passionate concern about the use of mobile phones by students in Senior High Schools in Ghana and reminded us all of the fact that students (first and second cycle) were not permitted to use phones in school. The GES expressed worry that students spend a lot of their time playing (chatting, texting and surfing the internet) with their mobile phones in class. These are serious concerns that need to be looked at especially if these are the reasons why there should be a ban on the use of mobile phones in schools.
While this ban is in place, Government is trying very hard to make ICT universal in all schools. This commitment is clearly seen in the Ghana ICT for Accelerated Development Policy -2003. The Ministry of Education, to firm up Government’s commitment also developed the ICT in Education Policy – 2008. These show ample evidence of the commitment to mainstream ICT in Education.
Reading through the two policy documents, it becomes very difficult for me to reconcile the commitments and programmes in the policy documents to an existing ban on the use of mobile phones in schools in Ghana. Can we speak of main streaming ICTs in Education without thinking of what mobile technology brings to fore in the classroom?
Most basic ‘simple’ phones have the camera, recorder, calculator, currency convertor, stopwatch, location finder, dictionary etc. features or functionality. These are very useful to students at all levels of education. For the student, the phone can be a calculator. Students can use cameras in phones to record details of practical lessons and other experiments. Geography students would find the location finder function useful in Map reading lessons. Students can also use the phones to listen to useful discussions on radio that broadens their horizon. Mobile phones can also reduce barrier of entry of computers into the classroom.
Going a just a “little high tech” most that are internet enabled are very useful to students as they can do research online as well as use as a reference.
While we try to bridge the gap between allowing and not allowing mobile phones in schools, we should also focus on how we introduce mobile technology, with sound pedagogy so that teachers will accept it. Mobile technology requires a different approach to instruction. It requires a collaborative, interactive, exploratory approach where questions are asked, answers sought, and the teacher provides the guidance for a successful learning experience.
As a practitioner, I think that the current discussion of use or non-use of mobile devices is indicative of the larger picture about the progress made in integrating technology with pedagogical strategies to foster learning - and maybe a reason for us to revisit the implementation strategies of the Ghana ICT4AD Policy document as well as the ICT in Education Policy. Are we getting the implementation right? Are we involving all key stakeholders in the implementation strategies?