Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Cellphones in the Classroom

Here's an interesting video clip on the advantages (?) of encouraging students to use cellphones in the classroom.


Students have been using laptops in my classes for more than a dozen years. They were never using them for the sole purpose of taking notes, especially since the installation of WiFi. Smart phones don't change anything.

If you teach a class that engages students and gets them to debate and discuss the issues then they won't have time to live tweet or do anything else on their smart phones. If you are teaching difficult and challenging concepts and principles, then you are likely to keep their attention. If you teach a class that allows students to busy themselves with lots of other tasks during the lecture, and still get a good grade, then they will do that.

I pose the following question ... if your students can spend a considerable amount of time using their smart phones during class then they are not giving the class their full attention. Are you teaching effectively?

And whatever happened to note-taking? How can you take notes with a smart phone in your hand? Is taking notes an old fashioned concept that should be abandoned?


3 comments :

  1. I feel like, if you're using cell phones and social media IN CLASS, then you should also be expecting the students to use it for class discussion and work outside of class. And I suspect most students would rather not be allowed to tweet during a class if it meant they had to read and follow up on postings to my facebook account over the weekend.

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  2. Another issue is that not all students have access to these tools. At least lecture notes can be accessed and printed at the library, but if you incorporate twitter/etc into a lecture, you'll exclude students who don't have access to the tech. I had mentioned my twitter experience in another thread - not only did it fail, but the primary feedback we received, from a surprising number of students, was that they didn't have twitter/cell phone/internet access in-class and felt excluded.

    I pose the following question ... if your students can spend a considerable amount of time using their smart phones during class then they are not giving the class their full attention. Are you teaching effectively?
    I think you've got two questions here: 1) can cell phones be incorporated into a lecture in a manner which is not detrimental to a students learning , and 2) does cellphone (web browsing, etc) use by students during a lecture indicate that you are teaching poorly.

    I would tentatively state that the answer to 1 is 'yes', although I don't think I could do it personally. Perhaps having brief periods of time put aside in lectures where the students complete a task on their phone/computer would work. Whether that would add anything to the course would be highly dependent on how you implemented it, and on the nature of the materials being taught.

    In the case of #2, I'd say the answer depends. If a large portion of the class is playing on their phones than you're probably doing something wrong. But I've had the odd student in my courses whom never seemed to be paying attention, who did really well.

    And whatever happened to note-taking?
    It was never universal; I hardly took any notes in my undergrad years, and yet did quite well. For some people writing notes helps cement ideas in their brains, for others (including me), it serves as a distraction.

    How can you take notes with a smart phone in your hand?
    If my wife is any indication, a smart phone can produce a word-for-word typed transcript of the lecture. If I'm any indication, a smart phone can produce a 10-word e-mail over the same period of time ;)

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  3. Incorporating technology because it is relevant only encourages the racoon like behavior toward shiny objects that humans display. Some technology is ridiculously useful. Given the pace of change and the actual benefits however, most of it chews up just as much time learning how to use it effectively, as if you had just stuck with the old way. Moreover, it implicitly makes the argument that you create genuine interest in a subject matter by a trivial association. Teachers can help students find connections to material in ways that are actually meaningful and ways they wouldn't have seen on their own. This has the potential to foster genuine interest.

    Having been through a wide variety of classes, most technology just becomes a different kind of hoop to jump through to get grades. Give me juicy content and robust discussion.

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