Cellphones and Classrooms

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It seems that I need to revisit my policy on personal portable technologies in the classroom just about yearly now.  I’ve for a long time moved away from banning them and towards learning how to use them responsibly (so, for example, if you need to take that call or send that text, simply step out the classroom to do so).  I think, though, I am moving ever closer to a full integration.


My own use of these technologies is driving my reconsideration.  I always have either my laptop or my phone (or more likely both) at meetings these days.  I use it to review documents for the meeting and to take notes but increasingly I find myself doing spot research in the course of a meeting: searching through old emails to find out just how we handled this situation last time, checking our Collective Bargaining Agreement for the specific language about a faculty policy, or even heading to Wikipedia to get a quick background on a scholar or critic mentioned in passing.


If I assume that I am working in a professional setting (which clearly I am) and if I assume students in my classes will be in similar settings (which I dearly hope they will) then I think my own habits of technology should inform my expectations for students as well.  That is, I would hope they would learn to use technology to enhance and supplement the work before them as well.


This summer I am teaching a class on gender and sexuality and prompting students to use these technologies productively comes in handy.  I might make a historical reference, ask if anyone knows it, and then ask someone to web search it for the class when it’s clear no one has the answer.  The availability of ancillary knowledge is useful. Teaching students when and how to use technology in these settings is even more useful.  I can’t say that it’s a total success (I am sure some are still on Facebook and Snapchat) but I think it’s moving in the right direction and so I will continue to model these professional uses and will continue to revisit my policies on technology, as well.

About the Author
Barclay Barrios is an Associate Professor of English and Director of Writing Programs at Florida Atlantic University, where he teaches freshman composition and graduate courses in composition methodology and theory, rhetorics of the world wide web, and composing digital identities. He was Director of Instructional Technology at Rutgers University and currently serves on the board of Pedagogy. Barrios is a frequent presenter at professional conferences, and the author of Emerging.