Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Early Thirsty. What's the Best Policy on Smartphone / Computer Use In Class?

Don't you want to expand that stupid fucking syllabus of yours?

Sample from UNC-Charlotte:
  • The use of cell phones, smart phones, or other mobile communication devices is disruptive, and is therefore prohibited during class. Except in emergencies, those using such devices must leave the classroom for the remainder of the class period.
  • Students are permitted to use computers during class for note-taking and other class-related work only. Those using computers during class for work not related to that class must leave the classroom for the remainder of the class period.

17 comments:

  1. I find it helps to explain why it is disruptive: because the flickering of the screen distracts the people around and behind you. Don't say that I know you're not using it for class: doing this will get an invitation to come up and look at their screen, as if chasing them around with a pooper scooper was my job, or even possible in a class of 100+.

    Speaking of syllabi, it was precisely this issue, cell phone use in class, that was the example given by the Provost when I began as a shiny new tenure-track assistant proffie 15 years ago of why our syllabi are to cover every contingency pre-emptively. I tried to tell the Provost this was a logical impossibility, but it bounced off.

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  2. Unless you are a cardiac surgeon, arms-control negotiator, or an emergency medical technician, you do not need a cell phone that is turned on during class. A normal person can be notified about their dead grandmother 50 minutes from now: they won't need to be buried until 24 hours from now, anyway. Turn the fucking thing off and put it away. On the first offense, I break your thumbs. On the second offense, I break your legs. On the third offense, I start with the ROUGH STUFF...

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  3. from Jason in Jaxon-VEEEEEEl.

    The horse is out of the barn on this issue. You have to let them use their technology. Most, in my experience, will not abuse it and are likely using tech for good rather than bad. It's a Luddite who fights unwinnable wars like this.

    I don't need a policy. My students are responsible. LET yours be.

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    1. I agree with your first two points. It's damn hard to prevent this and most students don't abuse it too much.

      The problem is that surfing the web in class doesn't just hurt the education of the user, it hurts the education of those around the user. I don,t tolerate students talking to each other while I'm talking nor do I allow them to wander aimlessly around the classroom.

      If a student doesn't want to learn, that,s their problem, not mine. I'll be damned if a student prevents others from learning.

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    2. I bet the kids love Jason.

      Ben is right, as always.

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    3. Jason's wording betrays his misconception on the issue. No, we don't "HAVE" to let them use their technology, it's not some goddamngiven "right".
      If Jason's experiences are that their students are using tech for "good" rather than "bad", then his experiences are vastly different than those of me and my colleagues, who previously did not ban technology in the lecture hall (and had to so do, due to the overwhelming prevalence of "bad" use; oh, so, I guess that means we all previously gave students the opportunity to be responsible, and they weren't able to rise to the occasion).

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    5. @Jason: I dare you to watch any large class from the back row. The fraction of students using electronics for class is nearly zero.

      Also: that cliches ("the horse is out of the barn") and name-calling (this "Luddite" is a first-hand user of several spacecraft) are the first things you think of doesn't help your argument. There is nothing inevitable about technology: Japan gave up guns in the 1500s, a supersonic transport was not developed in the U.S. due largely to lack of public support, and the "renaissance" of civilian nuclear power in the U.S. predicted in the 2000s is not happening now, thanks to the Fukushima-Daiichi accident.

      Would you please stop making our jobs harder for us?

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  4. My policy is about disrupting their peers. If it is making noise, turn it off or take it outside. If you have an upright screen, sit in the back. (We have small classes and classrooms so this is practical.) My students are pretty responsible about these things and appreciate being treated as the adults they are.

    When I have long enough classes that I need to call breaks all the little widgets come out every time I declare a recess, so I"m pretty sure that most of them are actually refraining from using the things during active class time.

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    1. I may switch from my blanket ban to something like this. I just don't have the temperment to interrupt the flow of class to police them: Why I didn't go into primary/secondary....

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  5. I've got the opposite problem. I teach a very hands-on writing class, and for the past decade or so have increasingly done so in one-computer-per-student computer classrooms. The building which houses most of them is being renovated this summer, and the result will be flexible-furniture classrooms (yay!) without any computers/devices provided (not so yay). Most of our students *do* own appropriate (i.e. larger than a cellphone, keyboard-equipped) devices, but not all of them are willing to lug them around, many of said devices are pretty old/poorly maintained, some are shared with siblings/parents/etc., and some students simply can't afford them. I'd like to see us go to being a device-required institution, with the university making a few basic setups available at bargain prices, but apparently that's not about to happen (I'm not quite sure why, but I suspect that doing so would add to the official cost of attending, and the powers that be aren't willing to do that, even as they're quite willing to keep piling on various unofficial but pretty much unavoidable costs of attending, including this one). They're also resistant to some sort of device-borrowing system (which admittedly would re-introduce the costs of maintenance/updating, and add some new headaches on top of that, but they'd still be saving a lot of money over maintaining/replacing all the classroom computers they had before). So it's looking like we're going to have to implement some sort of coursewide policy, which at least some students will (understandably/justifiably) resent, and (not so justifiably) take out on the instructor/course (which is already resented as the one additional gen ed course that pretty much every students, including the transfers with associate's degrees who thought they were done with gen ed, have to take). And there will be all the logistical hassles of trying to play tech support for a variety of devices, instead of the several dozen identical machines that inhabited each computer classroom. So I'm feeling a bit apprehensive, or maybe just annoyed in advance (which really doesn't serve a purpose; sufficient to the semester are the headaches thereof, and I can't really do much until somebody comes up with a policy I can pass on to my students).

    As far as non-class use of tech in class (including use of tech devices that don't really work well for reading and writing of the sort we do -- i.e. smartphones, even of the phablet variety) goes, I have syllabus language saying that conducting non-class activities in class (which includes anything from getting off track in group activity discussions to studying for a test in another class from a hard-copy textbook) may result in deductions from, or, in extreme cases, loss of, participation credit for the day. I also remind students, both orally and on the syllabus, that such activities affect not only their, but also their neighbors', concentration. Most of them have heard this before, and at least pay lip service to believing it, but don't always behave accordingly. Occasionally I call them out (or at least direct a pointed look in their direction) when that happens; mostly I go by the "expect them to behave like responsible adults" philosophy (with mixed results; then again, have you seen what supposedly-responsible adults are doing while using their smartphones these days?)

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    1. Why don't you just do it like in the old days? Have the students write by hand in class but type any work done out of class, even if the early drafts were created in class. If you take the work produced in class right there, obviously, it will be handwritten. If students leave class with the draft but are required to hand it in at a later date, with or without further editing, they must type it. I wouldn't even be comfortable taking a writing class in front of a computer even though I'm working on a computer nowadays. It's not how it was done when I was a student.

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    2. I've certainly thought of that possibility, and, interestingly, in some ways our new classrooms are going in that direction, since in addition to flexible furniture they have wraparound whiteboards. There are, of course, practical issues: how does one save the work at the end of class? Smartphone picture (there's the tech angle/question again)? What about for group work? Smartphone picture uploaded to group work area? But wouldn't just starting with a wiki or google doc be easier/more efficient? And what do we do about prep and follow-up assignments, especially ones where students are supposed to be reacting to each others' work? The sorts of tools built into LMSs really work quite well for such activities.

      The philosophy under which our comp program has been operating for c. a decade is that, although individual writers have their own processes, and that is as it should be (if handwritten drafts typed up later work for you, then by all means do that), much writing these days, especially writing completed in a work or other group/interactive context, is done one a screen, and students should be learning to write in the conditions under which they will most often write. Put that together with the issues surrounding group production and workshopping of writing mentioned above, and I think there's a lot to be said for the advantages of the digital environment.

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  6. I've had to say no electronics, period, except for documented accommodations requested by our disability office.

    First, putting away electronic distractions is part of the overall professional etiquette required for the class and the program. You don't stare at a screen when you're supposed to be participating in a meeting or a conversation. I have them look up the phrase "fired for texting" to illustrate the importance of electronic continence in the workplace. I don't think that colleagues who let this slide are doing students a favor, just as I don't think that colleagues who give everyone passing grades are --hey wait a minute, I just realized they're the same colleagues! Hmm.

    Anyway.

    The second reason is that use of electronics will not only affect students' own performance, it affects the performance of those around them. (Citation) Many people already know this. I have had students complain to me about other students' phone use including under-desk peeking at phones during quizzes and tests. I suppose that's my fault for having quizzes and tests instead of Celebrations of Learning

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    1. Thanks for the citation! Going on my syllabus.

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  7. I'm still working on getting colleagues to put their fucking phones away when we're trying to take care of business in meetings. Till that can happen, I hold out zero hope for us doing anything about our students.

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