I chose to respond to an article on cell phone policies in the classroom.
When it comes to classroom policy, I always go back to putting myself in the place of the student. What policies would I like as a student? As an adult, and recognizing that we all have other responsibilities outside of our classroom, I feel that I wouldn’t want a specific policy around cell phone use. If I needed to wait for a quick text from someone during class, I want to be able to glance at my phone without feeling like I’m breaking a rule. However, I would never think it’s appropriate to have a texting conversation during a class. Having said that, I recognize that not everyone in the class thinks like me. Also, texting can be distracting to others around you and just plain disrespectful to the Instructor or speaker.
I like the following quote from the article:
“Are we failing to see that in some ways this isn’t about the devices, but rather about power? When there’s a policy against using phones in class and students use them anyway, that says something about how powerful we are, or in this case, aren’t. It feels like we should be doing something, but we’re justifiably reluctant to make the big power moves that fix the problem when there’s such a high risk of collateral damage.”
Power is one of our basic human needs (along with love, freedom, fun and safety). Knowing this, it’s important that we, as humans, allow other humans their right to power. Imposing too many (needless) classroom rules and policies just increases the power the Instructor has over their students. Is this necessary for learning? I am a huge believer of equalizing power among humans. I fully believe that the more autonomy you can give your students, the more enjoyable and effective your classroom will be.
However, what do you do when students are distracting others with their cell phone use or are using it inappropriately?
I think the key to this issue is teaching students how to self regulate.
“Self-regulation is when a person or group governs or polices itself without outside assistance or influence.”( http://www.yourdictionary.com/self-regulation#bm8CBPyhAoY170M3.99 )
I do realize that self regulation comes easier for some then it does for others. For example, people that have ADHD may be terrible self regulators. Teaching students how to self regulate should be part of the instructors “hidden curriculum”. At times, it may require classroom discussion and conversations where the class discusses appropriate vs. not appropriate cell phones use in class, or the class members may decide rules for themselves.
At the end of the day, we will not be with our students as they go out into the workforce… and many workplaces do not have cell phone policies. People have to learn to use them appropriately, so why not start teaching that skill in the classroom?