Teaching Tip: Cellphones in Your OM Class
As faculty, it seems we are very concerned about cell phones in the classroom. Articles about the problem are popping up everywhere in the pedagogical literature, writes Faculty Focus (Oct. 14, 2015), and they often are the “most-read” articles listed on various websites. Is student use of electronic devices that pressing of a pedagogical problem? Research makes it abundantly clear that students can’t multitask, despite their beliefs to the contrary. Even a casual observation of them texting in class while they’re supposed to be listening and taking notes makes it obvious that it’s the listening and note-taking that are getting short shrift.
Does the use of the devices make it harder for other students to focus on learning tasks? More than 60% of students say it does, according to a recent survey. However, 80% of those surveyed reported using their cell phones at least once a class, with 75% saying that doing so was either acceptable or sometimes acceptable. Students in the survey didn’t rate a university policy, a syllabus policy, or a glare from the teacher as all that effective; some 40% said they would still text in class even after a teacher reprimand.
Does the use of devices disrupt faculty? It can. Students aren’t engaging with the material when they’re on their phones, and we have leadership responsibility for the classroom environment. Also, students aren’t listening to us, and that’s rude. Should we be taking this personally? It feels like we should be doing something, but we’re justifiably reluctant to make the power moves that fix the problem when there’s such a high risk of collateral damage in our teaching evaluations. By the way, at DSI and POMS meetings I attend, faculty are on their devices not infrequently.
The bottom line: If we get too focused on the problem, then isn’t that taking away time we could be using to shape our content in interesting ways and to devise activities that so effectively engage students they forget to check devices? Maybe the best policy here is no policy, but instead some classroom discussions about the subject.