mobile devices in the classroom still gets a rise

'Weapons Of Mass Distraction' photo (c) 2012, birgerking - license:, darn. I took the devil’s advocate position in a Facebook thread on how to write/enforce a poorly written cell phone policy, and I think I angered a few frustrated faculty friends.

That’s how this post began, but I have since been excoriated on Facebook, in an attempted comment to this post, and in a  reply to an email as having attacked the original writer and her teaching. I will not post flaming comments here FYI. I have also heard since that the vitriol in the original thread has become vulgar–and this from academics is very sad.  Here is all I ever intended to say about mobile devices in the classroom, point by point:

  • Frankly, I didn’t think faculty were still so anguished over the ubiquity of mobile devices.
  • I wonder if some faculty are unaware that their conference presentations will be Twittered, for example, because everyone, including students, have such devices and use them while listening to presentations.
  • From my own position in the front of the classroom, and yes, I only taught one face-to-face class in the last three years (the rest of the time I taught online), not paying attention carries its own lessons and its own penalties in resulting course work, and if it doesn’t cause any bad results, then what’s the problem? This is my opinion about how I conduct a classroom:

I don’t like to police distraction on mobile devices, any more than I would have a policy about doodling with pen and paper or looking out the window.

  • I recommend Howard Rheingold’s views on cultivating attention–which makes about the 5th or 6th time I’ve mentioned him in this blog. Just search for Rheingold in the search bar. Rheingold rightly instructs that attention has to be cultivated, even more so in this world of easy distractions and divided attention.
  • Policies (anyone’s, not yours, dear) are fine as long as they are reasonable, and one would be that students adhere to a no-use period with the promise that the devices will be used later in the class. There are simply so many apps useful in education and so many ways that they can be incorporated into the classroom, that it seems unwise to ban them outright and miss out on getting students engaged in new ways. Handheld computers–wow, what a world we live in now!
  • You can read my document on this site on Mobile Devices in the Classroom on the Approaches to Teaching & Learning page as you think about it in your own classes.
  • I’m also wondering whether students [students in general, not yours, dear] are being forbidden from taking notes on their devices, which can later be synced to their computers. I guess there are still classrooms where computers are banned, as well. I thought we were beyond that.

I really angered that writer, who took my comments as a challenge to her teaching instead of to her post, as written. Lesson learned about having serious discussions in the limited venue of Facebook. Pity.


Categories: communication, learning, mobile learning, profession

Tags: , , ,

1 reply

  1. Please note that I am not unmasking the writer of the FB thread or her institution, nor am I posting any of the conversation here. I am only discussing my responses and how the whole thing inspired me to write about mobile devices in the classroom.


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