Smartphones are such incredibly powerful learning devices, now in the hands of the majority of young people, that it is unbelievable that many schools and even some governments have banned their use in school.

That this is happening, and being supported by quite a lot of influential people, should tell you that there is an underlying dis-connect that is not being admitted.

Many in the technology-in-education community have felt over the last decade that explaining the educational potential of smartphones should surely persuade politicians, policy makes and headteachers to change their attitudes and remove bans on smartphones. If you still feel this it is time to change your views. Rational argument is not going to prevail.

It is time to realise that the banning of students' smartphones is actually a rational response to the danger they pose to the established order. It is a very clear statement that the priority for government, and many school leaders who see their job as implementing government policy, is not education and learning. They are prepared to sacrifice educational opportunity and effectiveness of learning to what they see as higher priorities. The priorities they think are higher are government and teacher control of what is taught and learnt, young people's conformity to teacher-controlled learning and the tests/exams used to measure schools, and the rigid school discipline they think is necessary to maintain these.

A substantial number of schools, worldwide, have shown how it is possible to combine pupils' use of their smartphones in schools with the education system priorities that are now politically ingrained and likely impossible to change. Their experience has been ignored because it involves something the majority do not have the courage to do. They are probably also lacking the leadership skills but these could be taught. Courage is required because it involves trusting teachers and young people, and their families. They have to be trusted to achieve the targets the school needs them to when the tightly controlled teacher-led lessons are relaxed.

The reality is that most children are disengaged when in school. The book 'Developing Growth Mindsets' quotes a Gallup poll of more than 700,000 5th to 12th grade students in the USA as finding 29% not engaged and 24% actively disengaged. (Gallup 2017). I have no reason to believe these percentages would be much different in other countries. In the UK in several TV programmes following the life of UK schools we have seen this reflected in students' comments and reflections on school life. With this kind of disengagement it is small wonder most school leaders don't trust the pupils in their schools to achieve without continual pressure to do so.

The alternative is for schools to actively set out to engage young people in learning. The Headteacher of ESSA Academy started with a school motto "All Will Succeed", explaining clearly that this is 'All' not 'Mostt" and 'Will' not 'May'. From this starting point, over some years, the school developed a learning culture that engaged almost all the pupils. Pupils engaged in learning learn better. All teachers know this, but is very hard to achieve unless the school as a whole sets out to develop teaching and learning approaches to do this. A major side-effect of developing greater engagement is that minor discipline problems and classroom disruption decline pretty rapidly once pupils get used to the new learning culture that gives them the responsibility for achieving agreed targets. You will find more on this process in other sections of this website.

However it is necessary to tackle the issue of how schools can get here from where they currently are. It is undeniable that smartphones in the hands of young people can be very disruptive and cause difficult bullying problems. The systems we all use in social networking are specifically designed to be as addictive as they possibly can be. Many parents cannot handle this themselves, let alone teach their children how to. If the school is not actively helping young people develop good online habits and the strength of will to put social media aside during lessons this will remain a major problem for teachers and the school as a whole.

The only way to solve this problem is to work with the young people in the school. It is no good just banning smartphones. This will be resented and so it should be. It is necessary to help young people realise that school is about helping everyone learn. And this requires behaviour for learning. The school has to get to the point where a sufficiently large majority of the pupils appreciate that good behaviour for learning is to help them, that they start to self-police members of their class who have yet to appreciate this. Disruptive pupils being told to shut-up by a majority of their classmates is immensely more powerful than the teacher telling them to shut-up.

As a school starts to move down this path it may well be necessary to initially implement a ban on smartphones being turned on and visible in class. But this has to be in the context of students appreciating there will be progressive relaxation of this total ban as an effective learning culture and self-policing of smartphone use develops.

Banning smartphones is really the school equivalent of Canute telling the tide to go back. The devices are becoming progressively smaller and easier to hide and use surreptitiously and young people know - as indeed do adults - that digital is the way of the future.