Should Teachers Ban Devices in the Classroom?

Me and my big mouth. Check out this recent interview I did for the BCIT Link Newspaper.

I taught a workshop recently to some of my colleagues at BCIT. It was a professional development day, to help them learn how to better use social media for their own personal brands (because, like me, many instructors have businesses or jobs outside of being teachers) or for use in their classrooms. I have had more than one instructor say to me “I don’t allow cel phones in my class. The students try to hide it, but they are constantly texting and tweeting and on Facebook. They’re not paying attention.”

I get this. I teach in a computer lab, and honestly, sometimes it’s hard. Because sometimes it feels like the students are paying way more attention to their monitors than they are to me. It also depends upon what you’re teaching. I teach Social Media. It would be kind of hypocritical for me to tell them not to Tweet during class. In fact, we spend entire classes doing nothing but Tweeting, or watching YouTube videos. If I were teaching Economics, or History, it might be a slightly different situation.

But here’s the thing: technology is here to stay. Resistance is futile.

Resistance is futile.
Resistance is futile.

Sure, you can try to ban devices in your classroom, but it’s probably not going to work. Many students bring iPads and laptops to class because that is their preferred method of taking notes. Do they have internet access on those devices? Yep. Are they probably surfing the web during your lecture? Uh-huh.

Students are changing. When I was in university, and even now, to some degree, when I needed to really concentrate, I needed relative quiet. These days, it seems like kids study better with iPods or music. Their brains may be changing to adapt to the barrage of information they get on a daily basis. They are more adept at multi-tasking than we were, and technology and social media are integrated into their every day lives.

In addition, I teach in a post-secondary institution, where students are paying for their education. If they want to not pay attention in class, that’s their choice. I’m aware of who’s paying attention and who’s not. I have 10% participation marks that I can assign for every student. Those that are awake and paying attention are going to get higher marks than those who are not.

As teachers, some of the onus is on us, as well. Maybe we should put aside the same musty lecture we’ve been teaching for the last 20 years and bust out some new stuff. Stuff that will engage our students.

Finally, can we integrate these devices into our classrooms? I create a Facebook group for every class I teach. I create a Twitter list, and we use Facebook and Twitter to communicate, and follow hashtags on class discussions. I use YouTube to create screencast “how to” video tutorials for my students if they miss a class or need extra help.

When it comes to devices in classrooms, my attitude is, let’s embrace them, because they’re not going away. And let’s see if we can put them to positive use, instead of being a distraction.

Further reading: 73% of Classroom Teachers use Celphones for Classroom Activities.

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Rebecca Coleman

Social Media Marketing Strategist, Blogger, Author, Teacher, Trainer. Passionate foodie, mom to Michael, fueled by Americanos. I love my bike. Soon-to-be cookbook author. Localvore with a wanderlust.

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