Cell phone use in the classroom is rampant and contagious. I have come to believe that checking your email and text is a habitual move that comes from the inherent brain-washing when your phone rings/lights up/vibrates. Because you check it so frequently outside of class, it’s become a habitual addiction for some who can not go every 5 minutes without checking it. Text messages are so easy to send that it’s more convenient to text than talk. How many times have you called someone but not able to hear them talk because it was too noisy. Yet a simple text gets the message through. Teachers, as confirmed by my teaching colleagues in the PIDP 3250 discussion forums, find it disrespectful when students constantly check it in class. It means the student is disengaged and not listening to your lesson. But is the student aware of their actions? Has a cell phone policy been stated on the first day of class? Would this policy be obeyed if it was reinforced on the first day of class and a reminder prior to every lesson. Would it be obeyed if consequences were listed for that action? Perhaps a notice on the bulletin board for all to read would suffice? It sure is bothersome, so why not take the time to tell your learners how distracting it is when you see them reach for their phones. Do you think by giving the learners the rationale of cell phone use in the classroom would make them stop using it. Would the learners empathize with you? In my classes, I remind students to turn their phones to silent or vibrate (low), and request that their phones lie face down on the table. I allocate phone breaks during the lecture which seem to alleviate their “itchy fingers”. I allocate a “check your email/text” break every 30 minutes. Then request them to put it back down. When learners know their break is coming, they tend to wait for that break especially if you introduce major concepts that they need to listen carefully to.
Some of my teaching colleagues from the PIDP 3250 course have gotten so frustrated that they have taken the smartphone away from the student for the remainder of the class. They give the phone back at the end of the class to the learner. Another PIDP colleague reports one teacher, in which she was a student, answering a student’s incoming cell phone call. The instructor asked the caller if it was an emergency and the caller replied no. So the instructor told the caller that the learner was busy learning and can not talk at this time. This was remarked by the student as “ballsy”. From these examples, you can see that the boiling point has toppled over with cell phone usage in class. But, I ask myself, are we walking another tightrope with students? We have worked so hard to create that safe positive learning environment so learners can learn. Are we jeopardizing this sacred environment by punishing our learners. Can we not rationalize with them? Can we not let them see their behaviour has consequences? Will the class view you as a tyrant? Many students protect each other especially in cohort programs so will the instructor’s behaviour be misconstrued as mutiny on board a pirate ship? We must tread carefully as we want to model positive behaviour and still maintain respect amongst our learners. I learned in PIDP 3210, by the well respected, now retired David Tickner, that “Respect is necessary for learning to occur. Without respect, learning can not take place”.
With this day and age, especially when learners seem to be attached to their smart phone like an appendage…they have no hesitation or consequential thoughts when they reach for that phone while you lecture. Many of them stare down at their crotch with big smiles. We know what that is all about. Perhaps its just part of the evolution of technology. Why do we need to be so connected? What is so important in your texting or emailing that it can’t wait. Is it more important than the value of education? Are we dealing with addictions? Habitual addictions? Lots to think about. Would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.