Cellphone Management on the Fly

We all struggle with how to manage new technologies in the classroom (and in our own lives). I know I am not alone in wondering how to teach thoughtful, respectable management of technology to my students. I can be a struggle, and while I understand the impulse, I am not a fan of draconian interdictions. And, I don’t think they work even if they fit with my philosophy for engaging students (which they don’t).

Portable technology with internet connectivity is a powerful tool, and I want my students to understand the how and when of appropriate use. Still, it can be a struggle.

In my Senior Lit class last week we were doing 60 second speeches on the research topic they are exploring for the major assignment of the course. When I teach public speaking, it is, I think, extremely important that we provide a supportive audience for each other. Public speaking is hard, and while they may one day face a hostile audience, I don’t want it to be in my class.

I didn’t really have a plan, but as I was giving some instructions to the class I noticed several of the usual suspects were on their phones. Rather than play police person, I took out my own phone, held it up, and told everyone to do the same. They were startled, but followed along. Then I turned my phone off and told them to do the same. They followed along.

Then I told them to leave their phones out on their desks in plain sight.

It was the best they’ve done so far at being a good audience. And I told them that at the end. I think making it public really helped. When I just tell them not to use their phones, we get into this game of cat and mouse, and I revert to the role of police person. I really don’t like that at all. Putting the phones out in open view diffused that game, and we were able to concentrate on our classmates and how they were doing.

I wouldn’t do this every day. But when I really need them to focus and be supportive, it seems to work quite well.

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