Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Use of Cell, Mobile or Smart Phones in the Classroom



Guest Blogger: Safro Kwame

According to The Lincoln University Students Handbook, "Cell phones are not to be used in the classroom during instructional time. Cell phones that ring and/or answered during classroom instruction are subject to confiscation by the Professor. Confiscated cell phones will be turned over to the Dean of Students. (http://www.lincoln.edu/studentaffairs/studenthandbook.pdf)
First, I do not know how many people enforce this policy. This is not to suggest that no one does. Secondly, I am not sure that this policy was approved by the faculty or even discussed. Thirdly, however, I think we need to discuss and approve a general but flexible policy on cell (mobile or smart) phone use in the classroom, probably along the lines of our general policy on attendance.
Here are some of the reasons or considerations:
1. On any school day, you are likely to find students spending a considerable amount of class time talking on their cell (mobile or smart) phones, in the hallways, while classes proceed without them; and in these or other classes, as teaching is going on, some students are texting their friends or relatives while others surf the internet and check social media sites reading or viewing class-unrelated material. Some, however, use their cell (mobile or smart) phones to take notes or pictures (of information on the smart, white or chalk boards) or check class-related information (such as dictionaries and encyclopedia) on the internet.
2. According to The Pew Research Center's survey of 2,462 Advanced Placement (AP) and National Writing Project (NWP) teachers, published in February 2013, "73% of AP and NWP teachers say that they and/or their students use their mobile phones in the classroom or to complete assignments."(http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2013/Teachers-and-technology.aspx)
3. The opposing arguments on the use or abuse (including banning) of cell (mobile or smart) phones in the classroom are well documented. In August 2013, for example, USA TODAY reported that "More schools use cellphones as learning tools" (http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/personal/2013/08/07/views-shift-on-cell-phones-in-schools/2607381/) and a Forbes contributor argued that "Teachers Must Let Students Use Their Mobile Phones In Classrooms," (http://www.forbes.com/sites/deniserestauri/2013/08/19/teachers-must-let-students-use-their-mobile-phones-in-classrooms-2/) while The Huffington Post reported that "Ontario Teachers' Union Votes To Ban Cell Phones In Classrooms" (http://www.torontosun.com/2013/08/29/ontario-teachers-union-calls-for-classroom-cellphone-ban)

What do you think our general policy about the use of cell, mobile or smart phones in the classroom should be?

13 comments:

  1. Dr. Kwame,

    Wonderful blog topic!

    I am not faculty. I hope I do not offend anyone by commenting. However, your post was very interesting to me. I wonder how many faculty and/or students even know that phrase is in the handbook! I know I did not. In my opinion, that phrase is antiquated. It is difficult to teach Digital Natives not to use their phones. I like the idea of back channeling (See: http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2012/11/four-smart-ways-to-use-cell-phones-in-class/). The site, Today’s Meet (http://todaysmeet.com/) offers a way to set up a class so students can comment using their cell phones. This could be projected on the SmartBoard so even those without phones could see the comments. A great way to get those involved who are afraid to speak in class. Also, the type of thinker (i.e. web thinker, linear thinker, video game thinker – (see my blog http://idandlearning.blogspot.com/ for further info on thinkers) the student is will play a role in how the student uses the phone for learning.

    Brenda

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Brenda for your comments and links. As is noted in "Four Smart Ways to Use Cell Phones in Class: If the students don’t enjoy what they’re doing, they will be more tempted to use their phones inappropriately." Not all students enjoy learning difficult subjects.

      Safro Kwame

      Delete
  2. Dr. Kwame,
    I would agree with your statement that "Not all students enjoy learning difficult subjects." I would take that a step further to say not all students enjoy learning. I have been thinking about how to incorporate and monitor technology to enhance learning, and to keep students' interested in the subject. There are many possibilities. However, choosing the best possibility for the subject being taught will take trial and error. My opinion is the use of cell phones in the classroom should be the professor's choice.

    -Brenda

    ReplyDelete
  3. An interesting topic and difficult one to come to any clear conclusion on. As someone teaching working adults, I know that students often have to have cell phone access at all times, whether because they are on call for their jobs or whether they need to be accessible to their families. I wouldn't, therefore, be in favor of a policy that would forbid their use; like Brenda, I might see the issue as the professor's choice. My policy is that cell phones need to be on silent mode and students who need to respond to calls should leave class briefly to do so. (Obviously, if a student abuses this policy we have a serious talk.) I would also think that the issue you raise is larger than just cell phones: would you say that students could not use iPads in class, for instance? And finally, just to add to the positive side of the ledger about how cell phones can be used, here's an interesting project I read about recently on a writing teacher listserv I subscribe to. Maybe the discussion we should be having is not whether students should use cell phones in class but instead how they can use them to learn what we want them to be learning?
    " I'm pleased to announce that a short video my ENG 494/595 Language, Technology, and Culture students at Oregon State University has now been finished and is up on the Web. If you're interested, it concerns literacy (broadly understood) and the roles cell phones, and especially smartphones, play in our everyday lives. It is called Does your Smartphone Make you Smarter? and can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H2mQOus0i7A "

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Interesting questions and video. Thanks.

      I wonder what we did and how we managed before the invention or commercialization of cell phones.

      Q: would you say that students could not use iPads in class, for instance?
      A: It depends on how they are used.

      The uses and abuses of iPads or computers in classrooms tend to be different from those of cell phones; don't they?

      Q: Maybe the discussion we should be having is not whether students should use cell phones in class but instead how they can use them to learn what we want them to be learning?
      A: Agreed.

      Safro Kwame

      Delete
  4. ...the problem as I have seen it, as a professor working with adult learners, is that I see more facebooking that fact checking going on. I think we should have phones on vibrate and use the old pen and paper for note taking. Just a quick thought from Dr. Frederick Feldman.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I mentioned in an old blog on October 2, 2009 that cell phones in the classroom can create a climate of disinterestedness and they can diminish mindfulness (sounds Buddhist). While I still hold to that conviction I don't ask the student to leave the classroom as I did in years past. I simply and kindly remind him that this is a "no phone zone," a sanctuary for learning and then I ask him for the phone. I typically have to do that about two times a semester in a given class. On the other hand, there are times when I ask them to do assignments in class that can be done on their phones. In addition, I give the students a five-minute break at the half-way point of 80 minute class periods. - Mel Leaman

      Delete
  5. Interesting approach, Mel. Thanks.

    Safro Kwame

    ReplyDelete
  6. These days classrooms are equipped with fully loaded internet facility to access internet by students to harness knowledge.Feels like a great idea.

    Thanks
    Charlie Electra

    Buy Electronic Products

    ReplyDelete
  7. Very very useful article, i will use it on my site.mobile phones

    ReplyDelete