I sent an e-mail to students asking them to bring their cell phones to class on the first day. I also told them that they could leave their textbooks at home. When one of my colleagues found out about my e-mail, she asked “What are you up to now?”
First, there is the issue of Internet access. As I explained to my students–but neglected to mention to my colleagues because I wanted to get a reaction from them–I want to have as much Internet access as possible during the first day of class. For one activity, I want them to look up quotations by Dr. King. Instead of having students run to the computer lab, we can save time by looking this information up in class.
As an added bonus, when I ask them to pull out their phones, I will have the opportunity to discuss appropriate and inappropriate uses of phones during the class.
My last sentence implies that there are appropriate uses of phones during class. Last semester, it was a great benefit to be able to look up information to clarify facts or fill in knowledge during discussions. That is something that I want to encourage this semester.
At the HASTAC Conference I attended in December, people were tweeting and blogging in real time during the sessions. These back channels also added value to the proceedings and, I believe, could add value to class discussions as well. I need to think about this more as well as discuss it with students. But I am no longer confidant that banning phones from the classroom is a good idea; not only is it impractical but it is not necessarily pedagocigally sound.
But why no textbooks? We are not going to use them the first day of class so there is no need for students to lug them to campus. When I posted my note in Facebook earlier today, it was more provocative to write a statement saying “yes” to cell phones and “no” to textbooks.