Don’t Ban Devices Unless You Absolutely Have To

Tragicomic discussions in Finnish media these days: Should the members of parliament be forced to leave their iPads and smartphones behind when entering the parliament sessions?

MP Thomas Blomqvist watching Sochi olympics during a session. Source: Helsingin Sanomat

Banning devices addresses the effect, not the cause. You see, there is always a reason for sending emails, tweeting, or even watching olympics from the session. Probably several reasons. Why are the MPs doing so? This is the question we should tackle.

Could it be that sometimes the sessions are too slow, repetitive, or even straight up boring? The MPs are busy folks with a million things to do, also outside the chamber. Connected devices enable them to break free from the chamber and its ancient traditions. Maybe they can even do some fact-checking before speaking up. And indeed, nothing wrong with a bit of spectator sports IMHO.

This issue goes well beyond parliament, even to K-12 schools & BYOD policies. Let’s consider adults before children, however, because it’s somewhat easier. Consider a meeting: as long as a person doesn’t distract others for example with sounds emitting from the device, do not restrict him/her in any way. If they choose to fiddle their gadgets instead of participating, they might be in a wrong meeting or the meeting is poorly organized. Nothing more to this.

With children, it’s a bit more tricky. In a school setting, clear common rules should be laid down. When to use the device, what to do with it, and so on. It is naturally difficult for the teacher to monitor what the class is doing, especially in a BYOD scenario where the device base is heterogeneous. However, in the future when BYOD and online tools have become the norm, things are going to settle down.

The teacher just assigns students with certain tasks and then they perform them with their devices. If they finish early, why not let them play games or surf the web? As with adults, their activities should not distract others in the same classroom. And of course there are issues of cyber bullying and the like, but such are broader questions and for sure are not going to be solved by banning gadgets in the classroom.

Back to the parliament. These are the people who are supposed to come up with good laws for us, also regarding education. If they are denied their smartphones, what’s going to happen with students?


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