Saturday 20 April 2013

Hot Topic: Surrendering to Cell Phones and Smartphones in Class

From Business News Daily
I give up. I just can't win the battle against smartphones. They're too fun and exciting. They capture students' attention like nothing before. And they're addicting. I honestly see cell phone and smartphone usage as an addiction. To be quite honest I'm not paid enough to deal with it, nor am I trained to deal with addictions.

My students can barely go all class without checking their Facebook, Kakao Talk, play games, or writing messages messages. The funny thing is that they're not really dealing with people, they're dealing with a machine. They get nervous and agitated if they can't check their smartphones. How bad is it? A lot of my students sleep with their smartphones next to them or under their pillow. It's the first thing they check in the morning and the last when they go to sleep at night.

I know people who have successfully used smartphones in class for activities, phoning for example works well. Doing research is great too. You no longer have to book the computer lab if they just need to read stuff online. However, for the majority of my class I really don't want anything to do with smartphones. I leave mine in my office on silent when I go to class.

Other teachers give students cell phone breaks in class, similar to coffee breaks. It seems nuts, but if it works, it might help your evals.

Some teachers I know collect the phones at the beginning of class and put them on a front table or desk that way they can ensure they don't get stolen. Others make their students turn them off. Others let them have their phones but take them away when they use them. Others take off points for phone usage.

I'm in the latter group. I've tried to take away phones when I catch them using them in class and I've played tug-of-war with students over them. It's not worth it for me. I teach adults. They need to exercise self-control. I tell them at the beginning of the semester that if they use their phone they lose points for the day. Of course I'll catch students using their phones and they'll immediately apologise, but to be honest, it's no skin off my nose: they simply lose points and I move on with my lesson.



  1. What is the points system you mentioned? How does losing points influence student behavior?

    1. Everyone starts with 15 points at the beginning of the semester. There are usually 30 classes, so each class is worth half a point for participation. In order to get points they have to:

      come to class
      have their materials
      not sleep
      be polite(not talking while other people are, etc)
      not use their cell phones unless allowed to (for dictionaries, research, etc)

      It's pretty easy to get the points, or so you'd think, but of course students will talk while others are, or use their cell phones. I'm at a uni and you'd think they'd know how to behave already, but they don't.

      When I notice them breaking one of the rules I simply go to them and tell them they lost points. Of course they apologise and say, "sorry teacher", but the damage is done. I tell them I'm sorry as well, but they still lost the points for that day.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Awesome! I'm going to give it a try next term.


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