We live in an age of unparalleled advances in technology, bringing both extraordinary opportunities and untold danger. I awoke not long ago to read – on a mobile device – of a fresh ballistic missile launch from North Korea over Japan, and the deeply unsettling news of an improvised explosive device on the London Underground had filtered into the staffroom by mid-morning.
Not long afterwards, the technology giant Apple launched the iPhone X, which retails at the top end of the market for over £1,000, featuring facial scanners and even the ability to make an animated monkey that will copy the looks of its bemused owner!
Closer to home, Huddersfield Grammar School plans to place state-of-the-art tablets into the hands of all its teachers as we bid to harness the best that technology has to offer for the betterment of learning in school.
As a school, however, we are conscious of the balance that must be struck between embracing digital innovation and guarding against the complications that can ensue. This is why Huddersfield Grammar School, whilst committed to using technology to aid learning, continues to require its students to keep their personal devices switched off and out of sight as they enjoy the school grounds.
Our students are very fortunate to be spending much of their childhood within the beautiful woodland-style surroundings of the school, and in lessons in which they are inspired daily as they learn about the lives and achievements of their forefathers. We want to provide our pupils with a calm, reflective and wholesome environment in which they can learn the simple art of conversation, discover the pleasures of physical activity, debate, laugh, look up and acknowledge the world that surrounds them. The breadth of our extra-curricular activities programme is designed to offer something for every interest. There is so much to see, do and achieve, and allowing ‘screen time’ for leisure during school hours would be an abdication of our responsibilities as educators.
It is a sad thing indeed that all too many schools across the country do all too little to tackle this issue. Indeed, it is by no means unusual for the communal pleasures of breaks, lunchtimes and even lessons in some other schools to be marred by rows of students sitting together in complete isolation, with heads surreptitiously buried in the virtual world of social networking sites and shared video content.
Not at Huddersfield Grammar School. There are better things to do!
A Head quickly learns that countless parents and colleagues share concerns about the addictive nature of mobile devices and how they can impair childhood if used irresponsibly. At Huddersfield Grammar School, the news of our ‘mobile-free zone’ is encouraging our parents to regulate their children’s use of mobile phones at home – and even to set the perfect example by regulating their own whilst the children are with them.