Cell phones are traditionally a “no-no” in the classroom. But it seems that some teachers have found a way to turn a distraction into a useful educational tool. The thing about this article that struck me most was this quote:
“‘You start managing the cell phone use, teaching them cell phone etiquette,’ Webb says. Instead of trying to hide their phones all the time, her students use them for class. ‘It takes the cat and mouse game out of it.'”
Maybe in middle or high schools . . . but what about in college?
During college classes, I have had some professors who were strict about prohibiting cell phone use, and others who didn’t seem to care. At Cortland, policies are all “anti-phone,” although consequences are administered with varying levels of severity. The “cat-and-mouse” game goes on constantly in some classes, where instructors warn about cell phone use, but never do anything about it. Other instructors have made it quite clear that cell phone use will result in an absence or even being asked to leave the class. I haven’t noticed people using their phones in those classes. (Unless, of course, they are certain they won’t be seen by the professor.)
On the one hand, I think it’s up to the students to be responsible for their own learning. Whether they are texting, doodling, passing notes, or even just daydreaming, ultimately, no professor can force his or her students to pay attention. The professor’s best course of action is to make the class interesting enough that the students WANT to pay attention.
On the other hand, using cell phones in class is, in my opinion, a disrespect to the instructor. It definitely does not reflect a professional disposition, something all future teachers should aim to have.
But what if we all used the cell phones as part of the class, as the teachers mentioned in this article have begun to do? The cell phones would have to be on top of the tables, and maybe even set in a certain spot on the student’s desk. When they were to be used, the students could take them and use them, but at all other times, they were to be left on the desk. I think that would be a hard rule to enforce, but it might be better than having students trying to hide them under the tables. It’s always distracting for the students who are paying attention when the professor has to stop the lesson to ask people to put their cell phones away. Because we are in a collegiate setting, the teachers risk being hated by the students forevermore if they use such grade-school-esque methods as confiscating phones from delinquent users, reading text messages aloud, or simply asking the student to leave. Even calling out students by name can be extremely humiliating. College students feel that they have the right to do as they please during class. But if they have the right, they should also have the responsibility to be respectful.
Since I really don’t foresee cell phones being allowed in class anytime soon, the best method seems to be attaching cell phone use to the class participation grade, and talking to students privately and individually about consequences for their actions.
I’m ashamed to say that I was once (at my former school) reprimanded for using my cell phone to send a text message during class. I suppose I had rationalized my behavior by the fact that the class was terribly slow, and my cell phone use would not in the least bit impede my learning. The professor was also sarcastic and demeaning to the students, and I really did not deem her worthy of my respect. However, as I later realized, it was still a bad example to the other students and a disrespect to the professor, who deserved my respect because of her position, regardless of what I thought of her disposition.
I realize I have addressed a plethora of issues in this post, but in summation, I think it is sufficient to say that professors, if they are opposed to cell phone use, should be consistent and respectful about consequences for cell phone use. Students should abide by the rules their professors have set for cell phone use. They should also remember that even if the class is boring or the professor is a less-than-likable individual, breaking the rules reflects on how people see them, and ultimately, whether or not it affects their grades, it DOES affect their reputation.