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Portable Technologies and the Classroom (Redux)

barclay_barrios
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I want to revisit a blog post from a couple of years ago about my changing stance on cell phones and other portable technologies in the classroom [please link to this if you can; it’s called Cell Phones and the Classroom and is from 2011].  In that post I explained how I had moved from banning cell phones to a simpler policy: Use portable technologies responsibly or not at all. The policy has generally served me well—especially since in the intervening years smart phones have become smarter, tablets have become more available, and laptops have become utterly common.  I always explain the policy and tell students “Look, I know you have a life.  I know your babysitter may have to call you or you just got a text from your boss or whatever.  If you need to text or use your phone, just step outside.”  I’d like to think the policy is simple, generous, and flexible: if you are pulling out your phone to pull up a PDF of the class reading, great; if you’re pulling it out to text just step outside. And yet, increasingly, I find students utterly unable to follow this policy.  When I catch them texting I call them out, especially the ones sitting right next to the door.  It’s quite frustrating for me, really.  I don’t want to ban portable technologies—my roots are in computers and composition—but I also want students to learn simple civilized (and job-friendly) skills about using these technologies. I’m baffled.  I’m starting to suspect that there’s something Pavlovian about their behavior, that having tech banned throughout high school and in other classes creates a “hide and text” reflex.  Perhaps, that is, it’s just automatic for them.  More troubling, it may be that students can’t even wait the five seconds it would take for them to walk out the classroom to answer that text. Either way I am stymied.  Thoughts?
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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.