Bookmarked The Case for Making Classrooms Phone-Free by Tyler Rablin (EdSurge)

Some students are able to control their phone use, but as these devices have become more ingrained in everything we do, that number is dwindling … When we allow students to pick up their phones, even when we’re using them for learning activities, it’s too much temptation.

Tyler Rablin extends on his Twitter thread to unpack the decision to make his classroom phone-free. Although there are many benefits to having a phone in the classroom, Rablin argues that these do not complete with the challenge to our attention offered by a dopamine shot.

If my student’s goal is to be happy, or experience that dopamine shot, and the options are to get it immediately with their phone or to spend time and effort learning something new and challenging, they’ll probably opt for their phone because it’s easier. This compounds the fact that many students who haven’t been successful in school don’t actually believe they can have a positive experience with learning.

Rablin discusses the work of Kelly McGonigal and the life we want to live.

In “Willpower Instinct,” McGonigal discusses how willpower is not about saying no to the things you don’t want to do, but it’s about saying yes to the life you truly want to live.

My question is how banning devices actually supports students to learn to constructively live with smartphones? I wonder what happens when students enter the world beyond education? Are there any other productive strategies for supporting students? I also wonder about things such as smart watches too?

“wiobyrne,” in Algorithmically Plottable Emptiness – Digitally Literate ()

Replied to Your phone is not a book – David Preston (David Preston)

To paraphrase Professor Faber from Fahrenheit 451, is it the book itself or what’s in the book that we admire? Would the history and the philosophical ideas in the book come through if it were presented in a different medium? Would the digital version be the same or different? I devoured Clive’s article and reflected on how his first-person account brought these issues to life.

Reflecting on Clive Thompson’s article about reading a book on a phone, David Preston turns his attention to the differences between phones and books. He explores some of the affordances associated with phones (and their data) and celebretes the opportunity to connect and share.

Our world works better when people connect in systems and contribute value by sharing personally relevant ideas. Even when we disagree – especially when we disagree – communicating with each other forms bonds that lead to deeper understanding and more value. We are way beyond “keep your eyes on your own paper.” We face complicated problems that require collaboration and community to solve. Schools must adapt and prepare young people to thrive in an interdependent, interdisciplinary, interconnected world.

I am left thinking about the idea of ‘sharing as caring‘:

Maybe it is just me. Maybe sharing online just works? However, I agree with The Luddbrarian that where we need to start in regards to Facebook and social media in general is ‘expand our imagination’ in this area. I think that this starts by asking questions. What does it mean to be digital? How are we really caring in online space? Does it have to involve sharing? As always, comments welcome.

Bookmarked The Global Smartphone – UCL Press (UCL Press)

The Global Smartphone presents a series of original perspectives deriving from this global and comparative research project. Smartphones have become as much a place within which we live as a device we use to provide ‘perpetual opportunism’, as they are always with us. The authors show how the smartphone is more than an ‘app device’ and explore differences between what people say about smartphones and how they use them.

The smartphone is unprecedented in the degree to which we can transform it. As a result, it quickly assimilates personal values. In order to comprehend it, we must take into consideration a range of national and cultural nuances, such as visual communication in China and Japan, mobile money in Cameroon and Uganda, and access to health information in Chile and Ireland – all alongside diverse trajectories of ageing in Al Quds, Brazil and Italy. Only then can we know what a smartphone is and understand its consequences for people’s lives around the world.

A team of anthropologists from UCL, led by Daniel Miller, spent a year conducting an ethnographic study in nine different countries documenting the ways in which smartphones are used by older people. In their conclusion, the team suggest that the smartphone has come to represent the place where we live:

The smartphone is best understood not just as a device through which we communicate, but also as a place within which we now live. We are always ‘at home’ in our smartphone. We have become human snails carrying our home in our pockets. The smartphone is perhaps the first object to challenge the house itself (and possibly also the workplace) in terms of the amount of time we dwell in it while awake.

They explain that this ‘Transportal Home’ is similar to the physical home, with different spaces for various activities.

We can enter through an icon into a place where we can play games or watch television. There is another icon that transports us to a site for research and study, another for listening to music and yet others for dealing with daily chores, such as shopping or banking.

They posit that the smartphone takes us beyond anthroopomorphism and human robots, to a creative and relational engagement with technology:

It is ordinary people who have turned the capacity of smartphones from being just ‘clever-smart’ into the capacity to be ‘sensitive-smart’. It is thanks to them that every smartphone is unique. The smartphone’s potential to go beyond anthropomorphism may have been created by corporations, but any subsequent humanity or inhumanity discernible within the smartphone – the primary evidence we have presented here – was created by the people you have met in this volume.

Alex Hern provides a summary of the report in The Guardian, while Glyn Moody wonders what this change means for privacy:

One privacy aspect of smartphones not discussed by Snowden when he first revealed the capabilities of Western intelligence services to use these devices for surveillance is that today a mobile phone typically has gigabytes of storage. People now routinely store thousands of photos, videos and messages, rarely throwing away anything from their past datastreams. As such, their smartphones represent a distillation of what they have said, who they have met, and what they have done, over the last few years. The more people use smartphones in their daily lives, the more complete that record becomes – and the more valuable to the authorities when searching for incriminating or just useful information about people. As a result, one of the first things the police try to do is to download the contents of a suspect’s device. Even though this is tantamount to downloading important parts of a person’s memory, there are few constraints on this extremely intrusive prying.

A part of the intent of this research is to go beyond the rhetoric where smartphones and social media has destroyed a generation. It is interesting to consider this alongside the work by Alannah and Madeline Foundation on The Digital Home. It also reminds me of danah boyd’s suggestion from a few years ago to how to be more mindful of such changes:

  1. Verbalize what you’re doing with your phone’
  2. Create a household contract
Bookmarked The dystopian lake filled by the world’s tech lust by Tim Maughan (

After seeing the impact of rare earth mining myself, it’s impossible to view the gadgets I use everyday in the same way. As I watched Apple announce their smart watch recently, a thought crossed my mind: once we made watches with minerals mined from the Earth and treated them like precious heirlooms; now we use even rarer minerals and we’ll want to update them yearly. Technology companies continually urge us to upgrade; to buy the newest tablet or phone. But I cannot forget that it all begins in a place like Bautou, and a terrible toxic lake that stretches to the horizon.

Tim Maughan reports on the rise of Baogang in Mongolia and consequences associated with mining for rare earth minerals which many of our devices are dependent upon
Liked Opinion | Twelve Million Phones, One Dataset, Zero Privacy (

What we learned from the spy in your pocket.

Stuart Thompson and Charlie Warzel dig into the location data scrapped by apps and smartphones. To explain the systemic surveillance that we are all a part of, they unpack a single data source from a location data company.

The data reviewed by Times Opinion didn’t come from a telecom or giant tech company, nor did it come from a governmental surveillance operation. It originated from a location data company, one of dozens quietly collecting precise movements using software slipped onto mobile phone apps. You’ve probably never heard of most of the companies — and yet to anyone who has access to this data, your life is an open book. They can see the places you go every moment of the day, whom you meet with or spend the night with, where you pray, whether you visit a methadone clinic, a psychiatrist’s office or a massage parlor.

This information is often used in cc combination with other data points to create a shadow profile.

As revealing as our searches of Washington were, we were relying on just one slice of data, sourced from one company, focused on one city, covering less than one year. Location data companies collect orders of magnitude more information every day than the totality of what Times Opinion received.

Until governments step in to curb such practices, we need to be a little more paranoid , as Kara Swisher suggests. While John Naughton wonders how the west is any different to China?

It throws an interesting light on western concerns about China. The main difference between there and the US, it seems, is that in China it’s the state that does the surveillance, whereas in the US it’s the corporate sector that conducts it – with the tacit connivance of a state that declines to control it. So maybe those of us in glass houses ought not to throw so many stones.

Another example such supports Naughton’s point is presented by the Washington Post which reported on how some colleges have taken to using smartphones to track student movements.

Liked It’s always the little things… (

I’d love to see a lot more money poured into Free Software to solve some of the problems I’ve outlined above. A lot of it is due to a combination of:

  1. The massive mismatch between the number of developers working on Free Software projects, compared to the number of designers.
  2. The increasing amount of vendor lock-in, and decreasing interest in standards of interoperability .
  3. Duplication of effort and fragmentation across the Free Software landscape. Some of this is political, some social, and some (to be quite honest) because of ignorance.

We can do a lot better than this. I’d like to help, but right now I have more problems and questions than I do answers.

Bookmarked Smartphones Transformed India. Now Indians Are Turning Them Against The Modi Government. (BuzzFeed News)

Cheap data and inexpensive smartphones brought millions of people online in India this decade. As the country’s government cracks down, protesters are using the internet to resist.

Pranav Dixit discusses the rise of smartphones in India across the last decade.

“The changes that the smartphone brought to the West were incremental,” Ravi Agrawal, CNN’s former Indian bureau chief and author of the book India Connected, told BuzzFeed News. “If you were a middle-class American, chances are that you already had a PC, a telephone line, a camcorder, a music player. Getting a smartphone consolidated the things you already had.” For Indians, he said, the smartphone was people’s first camera, television, library, and newspaper. “For Westerners, the smartphone has been evolutionary, but for Indians, it has been revolutionary.”

This has come on the back of cheap Android devices that have flooded the market and free access from companies like Google.

More so than Apple, Google shaped the modern Indian internet. The company went to the grassroots and got its hands dirty, doing more than throwing free Wi-Fi at Indians. Over the last few years, Google has made its products available in more than a dozen Indian languages, reworked Android keyboards to work better with Indic language scripts, and even trained its voice assistant to understand Hinglish, a mixture of Hindi and English that millions of Indians use colloquially, which trips up Alexa and Siri regularly.

Access to the internet has subsequently given people a voice. The government response has been to control these tools to stamp out dissent.

In India, shutting down the pipes that power dissent has been the go-to move for officials, big and small, for years. According to the Software Freedom Law Center, which tracks internet shutdowns in the country, India tops the world in digital clampdowns. By its estimate, India had turned off the internet in various parts of the country 376 times at the time this article was published — 104 times in 2019 alone.

Liked We Need Cellphones In School Because They’re Distracting by Andrew Campbell (

If students don’t learn these essential digital skills in schools, where will they? Where is the environment where students can try to use cellphones productively, fail, receive feedback and then try again? Who other than schools and teachers are better situated to help students learn this?


On the back of Permanent Record, Edward Snowden reflects on some of the problems with smartphones, including the listening and tracking:

My point is not that you should use a smartphone like me, but that you *shouldn’t have to*. Privacy should not be a privilege, but because the legal system is broken, the average person today stands, at every stage of life, naked before the eyes of corporations and governments.

This system of predation has survived for so long because it occurs under the illusion of consent, but you were never asked your opinion in a way that could change the outcome. On the most consequential redistribution of power in modern life, you were never granted a vote.

The lie is that everything happening today is okay because ten years ago, you clicked a button that said “I agree.” But you didn’t agree to the 600 page contract: none of us read it. You were agreeing you needed a job; agreeing you needed directions, email, or even just a friend.

It wasn’t a choice, but the illusion of it. The consent you granted was never meaningful, because you never had an alternative. You clicked the button, or you lost the job. You clicked the button, or you were left behind. And the consequences were hidden for ten years.

I like Snowden’s point about consent. This was a part of my concern with mobile devices, although I did not capture it that well.

via Sebastian Greger

Bookmarked Ban smart phones in schools. Not because they’re disruptive but because of this (EduResearch Matters)

The ACCC has recently released their final Digital Platforms Inquiry, which raises important points that I believe should have led the recent debate when Victorian education minister, James Merlino announced a ban of smart phones in Victorian schools.

This report, coupled with a major project on human rights and technology by the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Artificial Intelligence: Australia’s Ethics Framework (A Discussion Paper) by the CSIRO, provide a collective warning about the vast amounts of personal data being collected and its implications.

Janine Aldous Arantes argues that banning phones in schools is a helpful measure in that it makes the management of data and consent easier. Building upon the ACCC’ Digital Platforms Inquiry, Aldous Arantes argues that with the rise of artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data that the potential for harm is almost impossible to understand. For me, this is why modelling social media and supporting students in exploring online platforms is so important in being better informed.
Bookmarked Cal Newport on Why We’ll Look Back at Our Smartphones Like Cigarettes (GQ)

The computer scientist on his new book “Digital Minimalism,” why workplaces may go email-free, and why the tech backlash is about to go mainstream.

In this interview with Cal Newport, he compares social media with fast food arguing that we are moving into a period of time when we will develop named philosophies to define our practices. For Newport, Digital Minimalism is one such philosphoy.

Digital minimalism is a clear philosophy: you figure out what’s valuable to you. For each of these things you say, “What’s the best way I need to use technology to support that value?” And then you happily miss out on everything else. It’s about additively building up a digital life from scratch to be very specifically, intentionally designed to make your life much better.

This is in contrast to digital maximalism.

[Maximalism] arose in the 1990s. The basic idea is that technological innovations can bring value and convenience into your life. So, you assess new technological tools with respect to what value or convenience it can bring into your life. And if you can find one, then the conclusion is, “If I can afford it, I should probably have this.” It just looks at the positives. And it’s view is “more is better than less,” because more things that bring you benefits means more total benefits. This is what maximalism is: “If there’s something that brings value, you should get it.”

Newport argues that regulation will not curb social media and that we instead need to understand that we do not really need them.

I’m a skeptic on a lot of privacy legislation, just because I’m a computer scientist who knows it’s very, very hard to even get a sensible definition of what privacy means. So, I personally don’t see the regulatory arena as being what’s gonna save us here. I think what’s gonna save us is this idea that we don’t need the giant walled garden platforms to attract the value of the internet. We would be fine if Facebook went away.

In a separate post, Newport makes the case for blogging and owning your own domain a possible response.

Slow social media and escaping the walled factories of industrial social media are two ways to step toward a more authentic social internet experience. They’re not, however, the only ways. As with my last post on this subject, I’m more interested in sparking new ways of thinking about your digital life than I am in providing you the definitive road map.

via Doug Belshaw

Replied to The War On the Smartphone: Has Data Cherry-Picking Destroyed a Generation? by Mike Crowley (

The truth is that most issues that are associated with “problem technology use” have their roots elsewhere. Bullying existed before smartphones, as did pornography, screen addiction, and social isolation. While it is true that smartphones can exacerbate or facilitate these things, they can also have significant positive benefits for learning, social connection, and communication. We can’t teach students to balance their screen time with personal interaction by taking the choice away from them. It is difficult to pursue lessons in the pernicious reality of data privacy and surveillance capitalism without a real and critical engagement with these issues.

I am not so concern about ‘access’ to smartphones Mike, as I am about the opportunity for ethical technology. Although we can preach digital minimalism or rooting devices, why can’t there be a solution that actually supports users rights and privacy by default?
Bookmarked Opinion | Steve Jobs Never Wanted Us to Use Our iPhones Like This (

Practically speaking, to be a minimalist smartphone user means that you deploy this device for a small number of features that do things you value (and that the phone does particularly well), and then outside of these activities, put it away. This approach dethrones this gadget from a position of constant companion down to a luxury object, like a fancy bike or a high-end blender, that gives you great pleasure when you use it but doesn’t dominate your entire day.

Cal Newport argues that the Steve Jobs’ initial vision for the iPhone was never meant to be a new form of existence where the digital encroached upon the analogue. He therefore calls for a return to the early minimalist days from early on. This is similar to Jake Knapp’s efforts to regain his attention by removing apps and notifications from his smartphone. I still have concerns about the analogue and digital divide and what that actually means. I also think the request for responsibility ignores the systematic concerns associated with smartphones.
Listened Reflections on the smart phone by Antony Funnell, Professor Genevieve Bell, Ariel Bogle, Distinguished Professor Larissa Hjorth, Emma Bennison from Radio National

Smart phones have become an essential part of our lives. But are they so familiar, we sometimes underestimate their importance? The role they’ve played in helping to shape our interests and interactions?

Antony Funnell speaks with Professor Genevieve Bell, Ariel Bogle, Distinguished Professor Larissa Hjorth and Emma Bennison about the history and affordances of the smart phone. They discuss the walled garden created by apps, the way devices inform our humanness, the cross-cultural appropriation of new technologies, support for accessibility and the surveillance built in. I have been thinking a lot about smart phones lately, especially while reading James Bridle’s New Dark Age and Adam Greenfield’s Radical Technologies. The conversation that I think is interesting is whether there is a future beyond the templated self produced by a handful of social silos.
(Re)reading Adam Greenfield’s sociology of the smartphone today and I came upon this quote discussing the impact on our lives:

Work invades our personal time, private leaks into public, the intimate is trivially shared, and the concerns of the wider world seep into what ought to be a space for recuperation and recovery. Above all, horror finds us wherever we are.

Made me think about Pernille Ripp’s trials and tribulations on being a connected educator. It also made me think about the darkside to PD in 140 (or 280) characters.

Replied to

After a single decade little more remains in our pockets and purses than the snacks, the breath mints and the lip-balm.

Adam Greenfield ‘Radical Technologies’

Replied to

This is such as interesting issue. Society is one perspective, but to think there is also the case of privacy and agency at play. Recommend Adam Greenfield.
Replied to On the Need for Phone Free Classrooms by Pernille Ripp (

I know that I have pushed the use of phones in our classrooms before on this blog, how I have written about using them purposefully, but I will no longer subscribe to the notion that when kids use their phones it is only because they are bored. It is too easy to say that if teachers just created relevant and engaging lessons then no child would use their phones improperly in our rooms. That’s not it, all of us with devices have had our attention spans rewired to constantly seek stimulus. To instantly seek something other than what we are doing. To constantly seek something different even if what we are doing is actually interesting. And not because what we seek out is so much better, look at most people’s Snapchat streaks and you will see irrelevant images of tables and floors and half faces simply to keep a streak alive. It is not that our students are leaving our teaching behind at all times because they are bored, it is more because many of us, adults and children alike, have lost the ability to focus on anything for a longer period of time.

Pernille, you might be interested in a Douglas Rushkoff’s recent reflection at the beginning of a Team Human episode. He wonders why is it so easy for people to lose sight of the design and purpose behind these platforms? He argues that other than teaching media, social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc) should never be used by schools. I think that this crosses over to the smartphone debate.
Replied to Technology isn’t the problem by Greg Whitby (

I believe the bigger question is how we as a society, respond to the seismic shifts happening. Since we can’t ignore the digital age, we must find ways of navigating the new frontier including what we deem as acceptable and appropriate use at home, at work and at school. Banning mobile phones is not a solution, it’s a reaction to the massive waves of ever-changing technologies. There’s an air of anti-intellectualism in all of this – a fear of the new sciences that was just as evident in the time of Galileo. 

This is a useful provocation Greg for a wider discussion. To ‘ban’ mobile devices seems more convenient than embracing the opportunity. My only concern is that too often we embrace the smartphone without stopping to critique the implications for data, surveillance and commerical influence. The question that we need to ask is whether it is ethical and maybe start from there?