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of Dr. Steven L. Berg

Please Bring Your Cell Phone

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.

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4 thoughts on “Please Bring Your Cell Phone

  1. Linda Gutierrez on said:

    I love this idea so much I may ask my students, by a show of hands, how many have internet access on their phones. If there is a majority, I may begin to develop class assignments using them!
    Signed,
    “The Curious One”

  2. Professor Gutierrez: Overall, using the cell phones worked well during today’s class with one exception. Every student in one group had a cell phone with Internet access and that team started to work as four individuals doing individual assignments. Instead of discussing what they were doing, they worked in silence taking notes.

    I would argue that this was a design problem on my part and not that the students were doing anything wrong. In fact, they were very engaged with the assignment–just not with each other.

    After I joked that this was a team assignment, the students started to share with each other.

  3. Brad Currier on said:

    -I thought that the cell phone idea was great. Cell phones have very many available options and one of them is internet access. As mentioned in class if something gets brought up and the professor draws a blank or we need to know some info the cell phone works perfect. The great thing about it is that so many people have internet on their phones nowadays, personally i cant figure out why every professor wouldnt allow phones to be in class.

    -Obviously they have certain purposes that they should be used for, txting and calling or facebook etc. should not be allowed in class. Because of todays standards the cell phone in class just sounds bad, but when you really think about it there are so many ways you can use it. Ofcourse with a system of students bring cell phones to class it will be abused, there is no way of stopping that, but the resources and information you get more than balances out what you have without phones.

    -Cell phones will become more and more used during class as time goes on. As phones get more advanced almost everybody will have a phone with internet access, this could get a downfall but can also be a advancement in many ways. The in-class discussions will become much better with the increased information provided and this will provoke conversations, friendly debates, and therefore students will learn much more.

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