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The year is 1576 and we’re somewhere in England. About a hundred years earlier a man called William Caxton invented the printing press – which meant that books were quicker and cheaper to make. For the first time ordinary people, who aren’t incredibly rich, can afford to own their own books.

It’s playtime at school and, over in the school yard, students in their caps and gowns are huddling over books – stories, poems, drawings, plays (by a popular playwright called William Shakespeare). Books are the new ‘must-have’ thing. Everyone wants them, and those that have a book are popular, the centre of attention.

But the teachers in the school, in 1576, are worried. What will students having these books mean? For the first time, students will be able to find things out for themselves, they won’t just rely on what their teachers tell them. It might be dangerous. Students, with young and mouldable minds, might stumble across something they shouldn’t see or read. Even worse, these students with their books could look at things in secret without adults being able to check on what they’re doing.

Students will be able to become independent.


Now fast forward to 2015. Most, if not all, students have mobile phones. They make calls, send texts, use social media, take pictures. But at school the phones get locked in cupboards (or banned from school altogether) and on school trips they have to be left behind – because who knows what students will use them for?

Previously smartphones were expensive, and only the very rich could afford to have them. But now technology has improved and manufacturing costs have come down, and just about everyone owns a phone. And everyone should be able to use it all the time.

But teachers are worried – afraid even. What if students send messages to each other that teachers can’t check up on? What if they take pictures and share them with each other? What if students use their devices to look things up, find things out, listen to music, send a message, check email? All at the same time!

And, students will become increasingly independent.

Teachers, I think you need to keep up with the times and I think you need to learn to trust your students. Because smartphones are here to stay – just like books are. Let students use them all day everyday at school – after all, most of the teachers already do…

Article written by Ben Egerton

This is an opinion-based article designed to provoke debate, discussion and further inquiry
amongst your students:

Critical Thinking Challenges:

1. Do you agree with this article that teachers are somehow afraid of technology? Why do you think this might be? What else are teachers afraid of?

2. What, in your opinion, is more important invention: books or smartphones?

3. Why do you think that the invention of the printing press meant that books became cheaper to buy?

4. What are the pros and cons of allowing students to have complete access to smartphones at any time at school?

Practical Tasks:

1. Would your school be in favour of having non-stop access to smartphones in school? In groups, put together a proposal to present to your Principal or Board of Trustees to see if they would agree to allowing them.

2. Find out more about William Caxton and his invention. Do you agree that it was a world-changing invention?

3. What other inventions are world-changing? What do you think is the best invention of all time? Write a persuasive speech with visual aids or a slideshow to demonstrate the importance of your invention and inventor.

Have Your Say:

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15 Responses

  1. I love phones and all but I have to say, that we should be leaving them behind instead of bringing them to school. There are times that we should use them and times when we should not and at school is one of those times where you really don’t need you phone. I have a phone and want to bring it to school but I know that I would be more interested in my phone and not my education meaning that my grades will drop.Personally, I think that phones should be left at home or kept away during the school hours only for educational purposes and safety due to cyber bullying.

  2. in my opinion I think that mobile phones being used at school is brilliant! not only can you connect with other friends you can also research about things that your learning about at school! the teachers need to learn to trust the students. I know that there is cyber bullying but I think that people who are to use technology should use is it right way!!

  3. phones were actually invented to communicate with others. i reckon that teachers have a right to be worried-there’s some dodgy stuff online-but we can still use our phones responsibly.

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