April 15, 2013

Cell Phones in the Classroom: What’s Your Policy?

By: in Effective Classroom Management

Are we old fuddy-duddies when we ask (demand) students to put away their cell phones in the classroom or clinical areas? Students tell me this is just the way it is now, but I disagree. I teach courses in health sciences. Students practice in the hospitals, interacting with and caring for real patients. My colleagues and I have found students with their phones in their pockets, in their socks, and in their waist bands in order to have access to their precious smart phones but still hide them from instructors. We have found students sitting on stools texting while the hospital preceptors did the work. Some students are one phone call or text away from dismissal from the program before they stop using cell phones in classroom or clinical setting. What is the answer to this problem? Are faculty members being too demanding by placing cell phone restrictions in syllabi or clinical handbooks?

Research has indicated that student performance is significantly correlated with cell phone use. A study by Duncan, Hoekstra, and Wilcox (2012) demonstrated that students who reported regular cell phone use in class showed an average negative grade difference of 0.36 ± 0.08 on a four-point scale. Students also underestimated the number of times they accessed their phones while in class. While students reported an average access rate of three times per class period, observation data showed the rate was closer to seven times per period. An interesting finding is that other students are distracted when students text in class (Tindell and Bohlander, 2012). So while a student may claim he’s only hurting himself when texting, studies show that others are affected also.

So what is the answer to this new form of passing notes in class? Faculty must assess their own feelings about their students using cell phones in the classroom. This will include the type of class one is leading. In the hospital setting, using a cell phone when caring for patients is disrespectful and can be dangerous to the patient’s and the student’s health. Many times it is against hospital policy to have a cell phone in a patient care area. In a lecture setting, the cell phone vibrating or a student texting can be very distracting to those around the student, including the faculty. In the exam area, students can use their cell phones to cheat on tests. Other faculty may incorporate the use of the cell phone in the course planning. The ability to quickly access the web for discussion information can be beneficial for the students. It also can encourage participation when paired with software like Poll Everywhere.

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Once the instructor has a clear understanding of the potential positive or negative impact of allowing cell phone use, he or she must clearly state policies in the syllabus. If the faculty member allows phone use, he or she then must clearly state how the cell phone can be used. If no cell phone use is allowed, this too must be clearly stated and students need to know the repercussions for violating the policy. For example, if my students use their cell phones during class, they must leave class for the rest of the day. If the violation occurs in the clinical area, they receive a formal warning. After the second warning, they are dismissed from the program.

Most universities do not have a campus-wide policy concerning cell phones in the classroom. Instead, it is left up to the individual faculty to make those policies and state them in the syllabus – which also means it’s up to students to keep track of which professors allow cell phone use and which ones don’t under any circumstances. Whatever your policy, you need to communicate your expectations clearly so there’s no doubt in the students’ minds. As a faculty friend wrote in his syllabus, “If I see you looking at your crotch and smiling, you are dismissed.”

Readers, what’s your cell phone policy? Please share in the comment box.

References:
Duncan, D., Hoekstra, A., & Wilcox, B. (2012). Digital devices, distraction, and student Performance: does in-class cell phone use reduce learning? Astronomy Education Review, 11, 010108-1, 10.3847/AER2012011.

Tindell, D. & Bohlander, R. (2011). The use and abuse of cell phones and text messaging in the classroom: A survey of college students. College Teaching. 60. Pgs. 1-9.

Sydney Fulbright, PhD, MSN, RN, CNOR, is an associate professor in the College of Health Sciences at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith.

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Comments

D.B. | April 15, 2013

There is a table at the front of the classroom where all students must deposit their cellphones there before taking their seats. The eye contact and attention level are many times better than before, when they could keep their phones with them. The students become used to this policy very quickly, and the objections fade away after the first day. The phones remain in plain sight, so they can keep an eye on them if they're worried. I never touch them.

Roberto Esteves | April 15, 2013

Controversial issue. I think the main thing is to establish clear rules of coexistence for everyone, faculties included.

Thomas Milton | April 15, 2013

I absolutely forbid the use of cell phones in my classes. If a student is seen using a cell phone once, his grade for the course is automatically reduced by a full interval. If he is seen using a cell phone a second time, he automatically fails the course. So I have no problem with students using cell phones in my classes.

Anne Edwards | April 15, 2013

I had a "no cell phone policy" except for guardians of children in daycare
since most daycare require the guardians to be in immediate contact
in case of emergency. Anyone receiving a notice from daycare knows
to step out of the class and return after taking the call.

Since the events of recent days, I will allow all to have a cell phone on silent mode.
I will have them place them face down on the corner of their desk.

Cell phone addiction is a growing problem

Leslie | April 15, 2013

I clearly state in my syllabi that I do not allow students to use their cells in class. With that state there is a clarification: if a student is a caregiver they must tell me so that they receive permission to keep their cells phone on vibrate. If their phone does go off, they are to immediately leave the class room as quietly as possible to take the call. They are expected to sit at the back of the class near the door to facilitate this. I have not had a problem in my classes since instituting this policy.

James Lerch | April 15, 2013

Yes it is a growing proble. I teach adult students who have many responsibilities outside of class. These include employers, children, roommates, parents, among others. I tell the students to put the phones on vibrate and that I am not isolating them from the world during the four hour class. Students, though, are students. I know they are texting friends, etc. If I catch someone I just tell them to stop. The next time they are dismissed from class with 1/2 an absence. In our school two absences are permitted. After that the student automatically fails the class. This is working somethat, but is still not perfect.

Barb MacDonald | April 15, 2013

Similar to Anne, I allow parents of children to be able to be contacted. But I do ask them to inform me if they think there is a good chance it will be needed ( I.e. sick child at home etc.) , I also ask them to keep them on vibrate. I make it very clear up front verbally – I have warned them that if their phone rings they have to get up and dance to the ring tone. But seriously, I don't know if I could be as strict as to lower the grade or fail anyone. Also when the work terms are approaching I allow them on silent in case an employer is returning calls for interviews.
What bothers me more is irresponsible computer use, wasting time on Facebook or YouTube when they should be doing schoolwork.

Kay Shively | April 15, 2013

Cell phone use is prohibited. I tell students to put theirs on vibrate, and I do the same. If students are expecting an emergency phone call (a rare thing, I'm sure), they can check the number and take the call outside the classroom. If the campus alarm system, which operates by calling everyone in the system, needs to notify us of an emergency, we will all get the message at the same time. Otherwise, NO.

John Lucchesi | April 15, 2013

I have a no cell phone policy in all my classes, but with many of my students being parents I allow them to step out of class to take a call. If the phones are audible or used in class, I will take the phone and keep it up front and they can pick it up after class is dismissed. All phones are placed to off and in book bags, purses or other non accessible area during any and all quiz, exams, tests. If they use them then, they fail the exam.

Cathy | April 15, 2013

I do not allow use of cell phone in my class. I usually state that beginning of each semester. I will actually put that in my course syllabus for next semester. I teach Accounting first year students, the majority of whom are addicted to their cell phones. If I allowed them to use their cell phones, they would not be able to concentrate.

SgtMaj | April 15, 2013

If included properly a cellphone with adequate connectivity can be force multiplier for education. You must have absolute control of your class and the task must be lesson oriented and count for grade!

D. Miller Fox | April 15, 2013

I state on all of my syllabi that cell phone use in class is prohibited unless I explicitly invite students to use their phones for a classroom activity (such as quick fact-finding or looking up definitions to technical terms in a new reading). Fortunately, I teach no more than 30 students at a time, and I request classrooms that allow me to move among the desks. If students use phones when they aren't permitted to do so, then I give them two choices: put away the phone or leave . . . now. Because we have an attendance policy, and because I don't allow students to make up missed work, being dismissed from class is consequential enough that students don't want this to happen. I also present this as an issue of civility at the beginning of the semester. The problems haven't disappeared, but they are infrequent.

History Prof | April 15, 2013

My announced policy is that cellphones are to be muted and out of sight. If I see a phone, I calmly tell the student to put it away; this happens only once or twice in a typical semester. I also announce that students with special situations (examples: one had a family member in hospice; another had a child with a serious chronic medical condition) may request permission to leave the muted phone on the table to monitor for emergency calls. I don't announce this, but a ringing phone in a bag is regarded as the result of a normal human foible; students are embarrassed and no special action on my part is needed. Phones do not represent a distraction in my classes. I also use the timer on my own cell to remind me that the class time has expired.

HUM Inst. | April 15, 2013

Interesting… On day one, the students & I work together to establish classroom guidelines or ground rules. Cell phones always comes up as an issue, and students have a critical discussion on the pros & cons of classroom use. The majority of classes agree they shouldn't be banned and should be limited. We discuss "what that means" and agree to shared terms. The most helpful rule has been a "one-text limit". It seems to allow for students to "take care of business". I rarely have to enforce the rules either, as the studnets have set the rules themselves – they generally just follow the rules or self-police. I also encourage the appropriate use of cell phones in my classes. It has helped students brainstorm, problem-solve and evaluate references on the spot.

SociologyProf | April 15, 2013

I have had great success (meaning I rarely have had to do this) with a policy of: if I detect you on your phone during class (when you have not told me at the beginning of an emergency where you would have to leave the room), then you must leave for the rest of the day. There is no additional penalty and you can come by next time but we are done for today. The remind or nag once or twice did not work and students learned that if you get caught you get a second chance. Students do not wish to have to leave so have self policed very well. This policy is on the syllabus and explained politely with reference to the literature cited in your article. My classes are smaller so I appreciate the challenge in a 250 person lecture hall, but then again that maybe isn't the best model for learning anyway.

JCarterPhd | April 15, 2013

To ban cell phone use in the classroom is to effectively step back decades in pedagogy. As educators, we MUST be on the cutting edge so as to engage the current and up-and-coming generations of students. Traditional students in the classroom today have been brought up in a multitasking environment thus are more adept at juggling more stimuli than the older generation. We need to meet them where they are. Ask them questions on the fly. Offer rewards (i.e. fun-sized candy bars, coffeehouse discount cards, etc…) to the first one who can answer, knowing full well that they will use their smartphones to find the answers. Make your lectures into Podcasts. It is time that we EMBRACE this technology instead of restricting it. Think about how reticent educators were when computers were introduced into every classroom. It was the Apocalypse!!

S.W. Prof | April 15, 2013

I put the policy in the syllabus and tell them at the beginning of the course, no cell phone use. By mid semester many have "forgotten" so they are reminded and comply readily.

Prudence | April 15, 2013

I absolutely forbid cell phone use in class and on exam days, the phones are put on my desk. Social capital grade which is related to the participation grade goes down significantly if caught.

Nohammet Andrews | April 15, 2013

Personally and as an instructor, texting or talking on your cell in class is a distraction to the teacher, the other students, and the offender as well. Using it, while in session is making you loose tract of every important matter being discussed in the classroom; I understand people having emergencies. In case you do "PLEASE TAKE THE CONVERSATION ELSE WHERE". If you pretend not to understand my rule, I will most definitely ask you to go outside.

Brenda Thomas | April 15, 2013

I totally agree with JCarterPhD. We must move forward with technology. I allow cell phone use when blended with classroom activities and group work. I find it beneficial when searching for definitions of new vocabulary/concepts and when teaching using the 'flipped lesson' strategy on a new topic. Students love it ! Otherwise, students understand that the phones are kept out of sight during other portions of the lecture. Moving forward……

Suzette Scheuermann | April 15, 2013

Suzette's Rules in the Classroom for Cell Phone's
1. Bring Cell Phone to Class as it i will be used for classroom activities as per activities in the syllabus.
2. Download all apps needed for use in class before class. Come prepared for class.
3. Phones may be carried on "silent" but not permitted for use of any kind during seminar, examinations and assessments, or clinical experiences associated with course work. A break is provided every 50 minutes for students to regroup and check messages if necessary. Violations involving use during these times will result in immediate dismissal from the course.
4. Text me at ***-***-**** that you understand my syllabus and agree to follow these rules regarding your personal technology. You may also email me at….If you have questions, see me during break or after class.

V Buchanan | April 15, 2013

I do allow students to have their cellphones on silent/vibrate for emergency purposes. However, I have seen students use their cellphones to take pictures of pages of textbooks and notes prior to taking exams/tests so cellphone use or access is prohibited during an exam or test

April Crommett | April 15, 2013

My policy is no cell phone use in the classroom. The penalty for me hearing it ring is that I take it and keep it until our next class period together. I have only had to take and keep a phone once. And its constant ringing drove me crazy! The policy is in the syllabus at the start of each semester. However, I teach in the Mid-West where weather is an issue. So on the first day of class I take my cell phone to class and have each of the students text me their phone number in case I need to alert them if I have trouble getting to campus (never have had to do this). I then tell them that is all of the texting we will do in class. :)

BioInstructor | April 15, 2013

I've only ever taught small courses (30 or less students), and I have encouraged the use of cell phones and laptops in class, but specifically for classroom activities. This policy was developed in collaboration with the students on the first day of class. The focus of the class was on critical thinking skills, and that involves being able to find and evaluate evidence from outside sources. Instead of relying on me to define every concept, I would have them look up things online instead of giving them all the answers. They would read out an answer and what the source was and we would discuss whether we thought that was a good answer from a good source. I think this helped students to join in a discussion without having to worry about giving a wrong answer.

A large portion of their marks was based on participation and that included facilitating the participation of other students. If they were caught doing something distracting (texting, facebooking) with their cell phones or laptops they lost marks for the day.

Janette moss | April 15, 2013

I concur this is also my policy and I state it clearly in the syllabus and I write it on the board before each class

Laine | April 15, 2013

all cell phone sounds must be turned off, no cell phones can be out on the desks. if you vibrate in your pant pocket and you feel you have to take it, just leave my classroom…..i'll never know if you are peeing or texting! If you feel you can miss my class even for a few minutes, it better be a darn good reason!

john karayan | April 15, 2013

An outright ban on cell phones in the classroom is not optimal, and likely exposes the instructor to legal liability. Instead of a ban, I allow cells phones in my classrooms for emergency purposes only.

I teach accounting at a small, liberal arts based masters granting university. One of the key learning goals for all of my classes if is for students to practice acting professionally. Managing cells phones provides an excellent opportunity for students to do so.

Many of my students have dependent care responsibilities, as do I. I keep mine on in the classroom, and in meetings, in order to be able to respond, if necessary, to emergencies (my mother is 94; my in-laws are 86). I ask my students to do what I do: place the "ringer" on vibrate, and respond if they think the call in an emergency. In over 15 years of teaching in the cell phone world, I have never had a meaningful disruption in class due to a cell phone.

RBPendleton | April 15, 2013

I require cell phones to be face down on the desk and on silent mode. This allows for child provider contact, and contact from deployed spouses some of whom get to use the phone there only rarely. For clinicals in hospitals etc – cell phone in break area only and only accessed on break / lunch. If needed here is my cell and they may contact you via me. cell phones are a problem but the cameras are the biggest danger due to hippa violations.

Caren Smith | April 15, 2013

I do the same thing. the grade of the student is dropped by one letter grade if he uses cell phone in my class and I write it in my syllabus.

Rosemary | April 15, 2013

Draconian policies are an attempt to control students. I prefer to give up a little control in order to include students as partners in a learning community. When we are all working together we can establish norms that work for our community.

By the way, I'd hate to have all the phones sitting on my desk in an emergency. Unfortunately, we must think about worst case scenarios, and I don't want to be responsible for some tragedy because I insisted on keeping phones in a box on my desk! Do we really have the right to put our students at risk? Yes, it's highly unlikely, but it does happen.

Glenn Hancock | April 15, 2013

Glenn I have started asking my students to looks up certain topics on their phones and write some comments on the white board. Amazing responses have come out of this.

norman | April 15, 2013

this was helpful

Rhoda Collier | April 15, 2013

Our policy states they have to turn their cellphones off or put on vibrate . If y
they receive a call which is important – like re: children, they are to step outside of the classroom to talk. If I see anyone using a cell phone when I am in the classroom I walk up to the student and tell them if I see them using their cell phone again in class it will live whit me til the end of class. I never see it again after one reprimand.

Loretta | April 15, 2013

I teach both theory and a clinical in a hospital. While in the hospital and doing patient care, cells phone are prohibited. The students can use their phone when they are on break. In the classroom they are not to be on, however occsionally I have someone look up a word, procedure etc. If they have a sick child or some other potential emergent situation they need to talk to me before class, have their cell phone on vibrate in their pocket and leave the room if they need to answer the call.

Doug | April 15, 2013

I was recently at a conference where a speaker said he allowed students to use smartphones in class because if he wasn't more interesting that the phone it was his own fault. My comeback to that is I'm preety sure that I will never be more interesting that a students boy or girl friend, I tell students if their phone rings in class they will be counted absent that day.

Joseph Robertshaw | April 15, 2013

Cell Phones:
Taking a call or texting anyone while class is in session is very disrupting to the class. It is understood that students may need to have access to a cell phone. Please put phones on vibrate and do not use them during class( by the way I can hear the mosquito ringtones). Please step out of class before you answer if a call must be taken.

Lyn | April 15, 2013

No cellphones is my policy. I find it rude and disrespectful and ask students to leave the classroom. It's annoying to others and causes no end of problems. Just this morning, a cell phone rang during a poetry presentation. The student presenting turned it off and threw the phone down (it was hers)!

Guest | April 15, 2013

No cell phones, seen or heard. If I see them or hear them, I take them.

Lyn | April 15, 2013

Good manners never go out of style. Face-to-face communication is a lost art due to those who think like you do. It's such an addiction here in Edmonton that psychologists are treating anxiety attacks connected to these phones. My students know that they must be able to separate from their phones for 75 minutes in my class. This time will be spent listening and speaking without a device.

Joan | April 15, 2013

I've started a 'phone free Friday' experience for my physiology students – afterwards students admitted to greater attention to material and greater retention. After a couple weeks of that experience, I terminated phone free Friday and let students do as they wish. As a teacher I hate cell phones, since they clearly interfere with student learning, but it's up to him/her to be responsible enough to make the right decision, or accept the consequences of the 'wrong' decision. These are junior/senior students, it's time they take responsibility!

Debi | April 15, 2013

I agree there is a time and place for all new technology, and my personal experience is that these young "adults" do not always use it to their advantage or in an appropriate way. I too instruct them at the beginning of the course to keep all cell phones on vibrate only, which they can have in their pockets if they are expecting an emergency call.
I find that the allowance of laptop and ipad use in class, under the guise of taking notes, more problematic. It can be distracting to those around the person if they are heavy on the keyboard (click, click, click), plus I have found that more times than not they are checking their e-mail, facebook, or sending instant messages. Where do we as educators draw the line?

Leo Sandy | April 15, 2013

Computers and cell phones may be brought into the classroom but their use should be appropriate. Computers should be limited to academic class-related uses such as note-taking. However, during class discussions, videos and student presentations, they should not be open. Cell phones play an important role in emergency situations but they should be kept on vibrate and not be used for receiving or sending text messages during the class meeting. Repeated texting during class will result in the forfeiture of the weighted grading system and your course grade will be based on the judgment of the instructor.

timbrady1124 | April 15, 2013

Based on students suggestions (believe it or not) I ask students to turn phones to vibrate. I have some soldiers in class who are always on duty, and allow them to take calls from work if they're on duty … no texting at all and only emergency calls from everyone else … these are rare. All these come from students who were bothered by others fooling around with their phones. There is no need for a phone in class, so why allow them?

Laura S | April 15, 2013

I have to say, this policy seems overly punitive to me. "Absolutely"? – see other comments below for possible necessary exceptions and ways to handle such. When we tell children they "absolutely" can't do something, the response is likely to be more resistant (if not to that rule, then to something else we try to do). If we treat our college students like the adults they are, they are likely to respond more positively to our requests and expectations. To peanlize an entire grade interval for one infraction of a rule that really has nothing directly to do with academic progress seems overly puniative. What kind of message does this send? I figure if students distract themselves with their phone use, then that is their loss and it will be reflected in their grades. If they distract others, that is a different story. I request that phone be put on silent mode and if one does ring, I repeat the request. That seems enough to embarrass the student so they don't do it again. Typically, after the first week or so of the semester, I do not hear any more phones ringing. But I do not take phones away nor penalize a students' grade due to use of phones.

Laura S | April 15, 2013

continued:
In terms of phone use during exams – that I keep a keen eye out for. In that case, if I do catch a student looking at a phone during an exam, they get the exam taken and given a zero (likely they have crib notes in the text messages or may even be checking the web for info).

Laura S | April 15, 2013

I like your more productive way to use cell phones in the classroom. I have done simliar with my students, often to the benefit of all as we "discover" new knowledge or perspectives afforded by "just in time" access to the Internet via personal communication devices. ("cant' beat 'em. join them" approach)

Chris | April 15, 2013

one txt limit self and studnet enforced seems to be a good one!

aylwin_forbes | April 15, 2013

I do find this a complex problem, and one which I have mixed feelings about. I am quite surprised at the predominance of the firm anti-cellphone approach manifested in the comments. A couple of things come to mind. I am reluctant to be caught in the situation of appearing to insist that students do as I say but not as I do. It has been my experience that, by and large, educators are even bigger transgressors than the average student. Ever been to a lecture or conference and observed the attendees hard at it on the mobile devices? I am as guilty as the next person. Can I then in all conscience then enact a policy diametrically opposite to my own behavior?

Secondly, mobile electronic devices are playing an increasing (positive) role in the classroom experience. For instance, the iTunesU app allows students to follow along lecture notes and add annotations on their devices. I encourage those with iPhones etc. to embrace that app. I can hardly then ban cellphones from the class. There are other creative ways in which these devices can be integrated into the classroom experience, using them as part of a PRS system, soliciting feedback via txt or other medium. The way forward is not to ban but to embrace.

BUTCH | April 15, 2013

I use the cell phone in a variety of ways. I have had much success using this technology in my class(es). If you would like to no more , let me know. (have myriad strategies)

BDB | April 15, 2013

I do not allow cell phones use in the classroom. If they tell me that they are using it to take notes, etc. they have to show it to me. I know that it distracts other students and I have had students complain about it in evaluations. Same thing when students are surfing the net instead of taking notes.

Pam D. | April 15, 2013

So is having a cell phone with apps required like you require a textbook? While I am sure that most students have the phone with a million apps, what about a non traditional student or a hold out such as myself? I do not have an I phone, only an inexpensive phone that I can call on and text as needed. I prefer not to spend hundredsof dollars on a phone monthly and I uitlilize my computer to search etc. rather than paying $$ for something I already have on my computer. Yes I am older(not ancient!), yes I am a hold out of sorts but I bet there are a few nontraditional students that simply do not have the means to have access to apps.I appreciate that you embrace the technology-sort of "if you can't beat them, join them." I teach in healthcare and my greatest fear for this gneration of cell phone fanatics is that they cannot communicate, not critically assess a patient-there is no app for that!!!! Thanks for your insight-there are so many ways to teach!

Mark A. Palmer | April 15, 2013

Cell phones, especially smart phones are a great tool to enhance student learning. My syllabus and success guide tells my students how to best use a cell phone in class. This could be any or all of the following. e-mailing me with a questions when I need to move on. Using the cell phone to set up an office appointment. Taking a picture of the board and sending it to me with a question. Looking up stuff on-line while they are working on in-class concept questions, team problems or discussion questions; I can tell them how useful the resource is. Finally, one of the best uses I ever saw was when students texted each other and sent their dialog to me to critique.

I do not understand the hostility. Sometime students may need to be in touch with someone, they almost always tell me and sit so they can excuse themselves without disturbing others. The last time I had a class where someone used their cell phone inappropriately was 1999.

At the college level we are not dealing with children.

Pam D. | April 15, 2013

I agree-it has become acceptable to be disengaged from the world around us when we are submerged in the phone. I do embrace technology but I teach in healthcare and it is imperative that the student can communicate, ask questions, engage the patient to make an accurate diagnosis. Nothing is more frustrating than to go to a doctor and have him answer his cell phone while trying to make a diagnosis-how do I know that he has even heard me? Or when he fails to make eyecontact because he is too busy putting things into the computer rather than listening to me, making eye contact, truly assessing me as the patient. On the flip side, nothing is more distressing than when a patient does not have enough repsect to turn the cell phone off while seeing the doctor/nurse/hygienist etc. So I agree with Lyn-communicating, engaging on a personal level is becoming a lost art-we may evnetually have to "teach" students to lay the phone down and speak rather than text or facebook or "tweet" !! My, that is a scary thought for many! Technology is a wonderful tool but it is creating a new generation that is truly struggling with the basics.

Bobby Dean | April 15, 2013

My students are absolutely not permitted to use cell phones in my class at any time. I think it is disrespectful to me and the other students. I also put the "no cell phones" policy in my syllabus. Those violating this policy will and have been asked to leave the classroom when caught.

Libby R | April 15, 2013

"I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots." Don't blaim me – these are the words of Albert Einstein – apparently a pretty cluey bloke!

Koi Muchira Tirima | April 16, 2013

I work in Kenya, which is quickly becoming "cell-phonia" where many of my students will not have one, or two but three cell phone (to take full advantage of competing tariffs). We all have multiple cell phone. however, having been trained in the US, I too have a NO cell phone policy that is clearly articulated on all my syllabi… to the utter shock of my students and frown from some of my colleagues!
I have all cell phone on silence (some vibrate so loudly you can't hear yourself think!) and stowed away in their bags. If a cell phone rings, I have the right to answer it and only the Lord knows what I might say! I take phones away and they can only be redeemed if the student bring in a bag of peppermint candy for the class (peppermint stimulates the brain). So far, it works well and it is beginning to instill a sense of professionalism in the classroom that I wish I could import into the board rooms here!
Finally, No CELL PHONE at exams!!!

John Schulte, Psy.D. | April 16, 2013

There is a neurological limit to "multitasking," and this generation is no different from a previous generation of reading a comic book in class or any other distraction. Using a phone in the classroom, unless it is part of the assignment to look something up, is rude, and distracts the student from important class activities, lecture and discussion. In addition, when I as an instructor, see someone looking down at their phone, it distracts me from presenting important material from the rest of the class. I have a no phone policy in class, unless there is some medical emergency needing attention. They are to turn them off and put them away. I tell them I will provide a list of 12-step groups to help them with their addiction if they can't be without it for the duration of the class. I also point out that, while they have a right to come to class and learn nothing, they do not have the right to distract me or other students, thus impacting negatively on their right to learn.

Sona | April 16, 2013

I allow them in class, and even use some cell phone polling in the class to have them use them to "vote". I agree with the safety issues in today's world that we need to allow them to keep on them, but to place on silent.

tina | April 16, 2013

I have made a cellphone holder that is attached to the inside of the classroom door. Students place their phones in pockets during class. If the phone is on the student and goes off during class I take for the remainder of the class. (my classes run 4 hours long)

Steve Iliff | April 16, 2013

Perhaps my view is affected by the fact that I teach older students, but I wonder if those of you who ban cell phones, or temporarily confiscate them do the same thing in faculty committee meetings you chair when participants use cell phones. I also would assume you turn off and do not use your own cell phones or smart phones during meetings with students and other faculty? My experience in committee meetings is that faculty constantly check e-mail, text and look things up on Smartphones, IPADs, etc. I haven't seen that as a distraction any more than I see students using technology in class as a distraction. I can't tell you how many times students on their phones look something up that adds to the discussion. I'm sure they also conduct personal business, probably just as we do in our numerous meetings and conferences.

Julie | April 16, 2013

I agree! A whole letter grade? Our students would complain to the Dean, and we would not be allowed to do that. We do not have tenure where I am (community college). But it is a huge problem. We do have monetary fines, but I don't waste time with it. It's more trouble than it's worth. Most students adhere to the rules, but some do not. They are only hurting themselves.

JCarterPhd | April 16, 2013

Apparently, good manners has indeed gone out of style in the fact that you chose to personalize your response rather than address the issue, in general. Edmonton is no different than any other metropolitan area. The facts are: technology is going to continue to evolve; preventing or restricting the use of it in the classroom is a lofty, albeit, unrealistic goal; those who do not embrace the change in technology or, indeed, learn how to use social media to their advantage will eventually be as effective as an Accounting professor using an abacus rather than an Excel spreadsheet. Shoot the messenger, if you will, but watch and see. I give it 5 years before the majority of educators will be utilizing smartphone technology to some degree in the classroom.

JCarterPhd | April 16, 2013

I realize there is a finite amount of short-term memory space available in the human brain. I also realize attending to multiple stimuli eats away at the limited space assigned for working memory; however, I am a child of the multitasking generation and, as such, have learned ways to chunk together different forms of stimuli to effectively cram more information into that finite space. I agree that previous generations were not bombarded by the excess stimuli in their environments. And because of this, it was easier for them to become distracted when a comic book was introduced, or the television was on, or the radio was playing. I am submitting that with the advent of technology, people are learning different and possibly more efficient ways of organizing, storing, and retrieving data than their parents and grandparents. Sounds like a great research project for the aspiring multitasker. ;)

JCarterPhd | April 16, 2013

I have to agree Pam. Initially, I found it irritating to have a doctor staring at a computer screen while listening to my list of complaints. However, I came to realize that s/he is reading my chart, the same as they did eons ago. We would be talking to them and they would be flipping through the manila folder with the first 3 initials of our last name taped to the outside. I am forgiving of that behavior. I do have to concur that there are certain jobs that require 100% devotion of attention: surgeon, pilot, emergency personnel, healthcare workers. That needs to be understood by those people carving out careers in those professions.

Harriet | April 16, 2013

I found a sign on the internet which I now have on the wall in my classroom. It says-
Dear Students,
I know when you are texting in class. Seriously, no one just looks down at their crotch and smiles.
Sincerely,
Your Teacher
I only let the students have their phones on if I ask them to look up a word or a fact in history. The phones are a distraction and cause them to multi-task rather than focus on the lesson. If my phone is off, so is theirs.

gradstudent | April 16, 2013

Can't stand them. As a student, others' texting is distracting, the phone going off is ridiculous. If someone has a life threatening emergency, don't come to class. At the very least, put your phones on silent/ vibrate. Same goes for playing games on tablets, laptops. RIDICULOUS!!!

Pam D. | April 16, 2013

So true-people are learning differently! Perhaps the focus must be on the fact that they are learning!! And as I think about the responses posted i wonder how forbidding the cell phone in class truly plays out. If something is forbidden is the temptation greater to "sneak" a peek at the text message?? Perhaps moderation is better than the strict no way, not on my time attitude(which I might add, I am guilty of having at times!). So thanks to all for their insight, I think I may have changed my mind to some degree-I may embrace but with limits!! Baby steps for the Baby boomer!

Hilario R. Monreal | April 17, 2013

As a nursing instructor in the academia and clinical setting, I find cell phones the future of education. Controversial? sure, it will affect your grade? and exceptions? no. The cell phone is a form of communication that our younger generation grew up with and know how to use. My 2 year old operates an Ipod with skill and views his Sponge Bob cartoons on U Tube. Surprised? I am not. Cell phones are used for emergencies, making a grocery list, planning a day, etc. The list is unlimited with this new technology. The imagination is our only limits for the use of this device.

Hilario R. Monreal | April 17, 2013

Let’s not forget that all lectures can be recorded during a session without our knowledge at times. Students must be given the responsibility to use the cell phone correctly during all phases of learning. Evidence has shown that communication affects 95% of our world problems (Borkowski, 2005). Let's not limit these young scholars from progressing to a better world. I can attest in the clinical setting that looking up a lab or a medication instantly puts the patient at ease much better. I am sure there are those that will try to manipulate this mode of communication. I like to believe the other majority of outstanding nursing students use it for the benefit of the patient at all times. Digital technology is here, we must learn how to harness this superior form of communication and progress forward to a better environment. __Borkowski, (2005). Organizational behavior in health care. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.

Pamela | April 17, 2013

I teach English as a Second Language (ESL) in a public, two-year college. My students use various dictionary apps on their cell phones, so I don't feel I can say, "No cell phones!" Also, if we are talking about a certain word or place, a student will often get a photo from the Internet, and then everyone can see exactly what we are talking about. For example, our reading passage had a story about someone who climbed Mt. Whitney. In a few seconds, one of the students was showing us a photo of Mt. Whitney and the surrounding mountains. My students also take photos of things (notes, assignments) that are written on the blackboard. These are beneficial uses of cell phones (iPads, laptops) in my class.

On the other hand, if I see students texting during class, I walk to their desk and turn their cell phones face down. If this happens a second time, I put the cell phone on my desk till the end of class. Also, it's getting difficult to have an oral quiz or play a learning game in ESL because some students google the answer while others are thinking about it!

I think stating your classroom (or institution) policy and expectations at the beginning of the semester and then following through are really important. I don't want to be or to be seen as "old-fashioned," but neither do I want to compete with friends, songs, games, and the thousands of other similar reasons people use cell phones.

Mark A. Palmer | April 17, 2013

I thought I would do what you mentioned, but some decent student's blew me away. They were texting their dialog regarding an in-class question/problem to each other; with the intention (which they did) of sending it to me to critique.

J. Morgan | April 17, 2013

It distracts ME and I do a better job as the professor when I am fully engaged. It is printed on page one of every syllabus- "NO ELECTRONIC DEVICES IN THIS CLASSROOM."
Students still sneak them onto their laps. They are addicted to them.
It seems a losing battle because some professors cater to student preferences and try to utilize electronic feedback devices in class. The trend is for "clickers" and online chats and note taking on laptops and a host of other electronic distractions.
Recall how it is sometimes said that parents are your parents not your friends? Teachers should strengthen and expand your thinking not cater to your limitations. I don't want to be "cool," but effective.

Hilario R. Monreal | April 17, 2013

As a clinical instructor and lecturer, what is more important; Learning or taking away an item from the student who will learn from it? It distracts ME, is not the answer. Encouraging learning and helping the student to grow academically is the final result of all teachers and mentors. We must get past the personal issues and focus on the only issue in academia, that is create learning.

ltrokey | April 18, 2013

Cell phones must be set to vibrate and stored away during class. Students found texting during class will have 10 points per incident deducted from their audience/participation grade.

jjyzer | April 18, 2013

The real problem we are discussing here is not cell phones, it is engagement. I take responsibility for my students' attention to the extent that it depends on me. If I see my students doing anything other than participating in the class, I take that as a sign that I am not doing my job as a teacher. On the rare occasions when I lecture, I tell students that there are extra credit points for anyone who finds an inconsistency in the material I am sharing. That gets them engaged with the content and doing something smart with their smartphone, instead of texting and facebooking. Some of our best discussions have happened when someone confronts me with an alleged "inconsistency"!

Sue | April 18, 2013

We are a nursing college, we do not allow cell phone in class, lab, or clinical. Students may not have their cells on them at clinical. They may have them in lecture but not to use in class; they must leave class. We are not flexible on this topic.

Rosie williams | April 18, 2013

I agree completely with this policy for the cell phone use.

Hilario R. Monreal | April 18, 2013

Interesting technique. I will have to try that. Thank you for sharing Sir. HRM

Lorie | April 19, 2013

Can I use your solution in an upcoming workshop? It is a good one that appears to be effective, and is also supported in the literature. Also, what is the size of your class, and the discipline? For some of our faculty, this knowledge seems to be important.
Lorie Stolarchuk, University of Windsor

sue | April 19, 2013

As a Nursing Assistant Clinical Educator; when students attended their clinical experience they were not allowed to carry their cell phone. Long Term Care/Nursing Home facilities will be heavily fined if "staff" are found with phones/cameras in patient care areas due to HIPAA laws. So students are aware of this from the beginning of class and start learning that professionalism from day 1. They are not allowed to use their phones during class time. They are allowed use during breaks and lunch. They are told that they need to speak to instructors if they have any personal concerns. At clinicals they have the facility name and phone number ahead of time to allow them to share it for emergencies and that call is routed immediately to them on the unit.

Prof Aqeel Safdar | April 19, 2013

I am utilizing the cell phones as a way of teaching in this new world. Why not use it to make your lectures more interesting? Why not ask them to find the meaning of problem from online resources and ask them to come with a definition using their mobiles…. this makes things more interesting and phones are on the ready, but not for useless texting… comments

Nisha | April 19, 2013

Mark A. Palmer – You are lucky to have students that are respectful and most importantly considerate of others. In my class of 180 students – At time I have rows at the back laughing while texting away on their phones. I have banned the use of cellphones for texting and talking – they can however use it to take pictures of the board or the notes I put up (despite the fact that they might already be up on the slides)

miller0306 | April 19, 2013

No one mentioned students using earphones during class! My students seemed offended when I asked them to take their earphones off when I was lecturing, much less stop texting, shopping on Ebay, playing games, and, of course, reading Facebook.

In classes of 120-200, I have tried almost everything, including "engaged" options, including looking up words, fun facts, and flipping my class to have them look up demographic data related to the subject at hand. I "get" that students believe that they can multi-task and they are better at it than I am, but I also believe that they are superficially connected to a lot of what they are doing. After 20 years of teaching I think I have figured out that the underlying problem is that many of them are OK with that, and I am not. So, I have to figure out how to do my job and ignore the earphones and texters as well as I got used to ignoring the students who have always slept in the back of the room.

Debra | April 20, 2013

I allow cell phones in class and sometimes encourage adult learners to "google" a term or concept we are discussing via their smart phone.or we might use technology for polling or other forms of interaction. If I see a lot of folks on their phone it may be sending me a message about speed, content etc. My goal is for people to be so engaged they forget their phone and just check emails and phone calls during breaks. Phones do not seem to be the same problem as it was a few years ago.

Stephanie | April 20, 2013

Missouri State U has a campus wide policy: all cell phones turned off or silent mode, put away in backpack or whatever. A policy frequently violated, I might add. My policy is that if I catch someone, I confiscate the phone until after class.

Mark A. Palmer | April 20, 2013

I would find such a campus policy a violation of my Academic Freedom (Freesponsibility). I would protest it through our faculty governance system and if necessary involve AAUP.

Mark A. Palmer | April 20, 2013

I really like your ideas. I want students to send me feedback about speed, content, graphics, notes-on-board etc so I can improve. I need to figure out a way to get more/better communication in this regard. They will forget if they have to wait several hours before sending me feedback. I would like to learn more about the "googling" of a term or concept. This could be a great way to encourage discussion/debate regarding misconceptions. Some of the e-mails I have seen students send are "funny" – "the professor is beating a chair with a piece of wood to explain how solder joints fail" – "Oh you have Palmer".

Mark A. Palmer | April 20, 2013

From my experience the cell phone going off in class is often a mistake on the part of the student – and they are embarrassed. I think all of us (students and faculty intend to put the phone on silent/vibrate). I forgot once and apologized to my students when my cell phone went off. We all make mistakes. As professionals we admit them and learn from them.

Life threatening or life changing emergencies are rarely scheduled. Therefore, the suggestion that one not come to class makes no sense. Is a student who has a grandparent with a terminal illness supposed to put everything on hold? No? Should that student find immediately find out when things turn for the worse – YES. Maybe the student gets to say good bye with today's technology. Common-sense compassion has to be the rule.

I understand that students playing games on tablets, laptops is distracting to other students and faculty.. I think the fault lies with the faculty member for not supplying enough on-line resources. My students have had access to on-line resources since 1995.

Dina Neal | April 22, 2013

Is there no place in education for absolutely no cell phone distractions? Parents cannot always be instantly available to family members in their workplace so why do some of you believe any of our students' responsibilities is different in college which is to prepare students for an occupation?

Curtis Loftis | April 25, 2013

Of course not, no cell phones, unless you speak to me prior to class and your wife is expecting.
As far as I know, men do not have babies, so ladies…no cell phones period.

Mark A. Palmer | April 25, 2013

You are right teachers should strengthen and expand your thinking and not cater (although addressing is OK) to limitations. Being effective is key, if one can be cool thats a bonus.

Banning laptops for note-taking makes no sense to me. In my class a typical table of four students will have at least two laptops. One of them will be playing the presentation for the day, the other will be elaborating on the basic class notes provided in PDF format.

I have also found in-class e-mail or appointment scheduling to be very valuable. Usually the e-mail says something like; "I know you had to move on with the discussion; but I am still confused about what you just said " " regarding the following: .

If I were a student in your class, I would openly refuse to abide your "NO ELECTRONIC DEVICES IN THIS CLASSROOM" policy unless it was in the course catalog and was not a required course.

Mark A. Palmer | April 25, 2013

As much as I think SMART Phones can be enhance learning; I agree with Sue that if the Profession pretty much bans their use, then their use must be banned in the classroom. Does this ban extend to laptops, IPADs and/or other SMART Devices.

Mark A. Palmer | April 25, 2013

But it sounds like we are on the same page regarding e-mail or appointment scheduling to the faculty member by the student.

Mark A. Palmer | April 25, 2013

I think you said it well we want to eliminate cell phone distractions. This does not mean banning their use when learning can be enhanced.

Mark A. Palmer | April 25, 2013

I agree with you Laura. As a student I would refuse to abide by such a policy from day one and challenge it. As a faculty member I would encourage students to challenge it.

Mark A. Palmer | April 25, 2013

I used tell my students I will answer the phone with my sense of humor "Yeah Mom the baby is coming along fine", "No Dad I have more than enough money". But I think the key is differentiating between using the smart phone as a phone and using the Smart Phone as a Smart Device.

I have not had a big problem with irresponsible computer use. I put a lot of resources on-line. Usually I see the irresponsible computer use during Team Problems or Discussion Questions, and I comment about how it is not relevant to the question/problem. The student sometimes turns red, other times hems and haws; and the other students at the table reinforce the importance of not inappropriately using computers as only fellow students can.

Tabitha | May 9, 2013

Hi Butch,
I would love to know more about your strategies for cell phone use in the classroom. Any info you can provide me with would be appreciated.

maryellen | May 12, 2013

Interesting to see the negative impact data on cell phone use… to be shared with students. I ask all students to pull out phones, turn on silent unless they are attending to a family emergency (I have one so I can sympathize with those students who need access to nurses and doctors), put them on silent, and then, pet the phones with their finger saying, "don't worry, honey, I'll be back to give you some lovin' soon!" Students then always ask permission to use phone to add study teams' contact numbers or to use dictionary.com or some other helpful app.

Important to integrate technology in class whenever appropriate and desirable.


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