I recently became aware of an article in HERDSA News entitled “HOW TO… get students to turn off their mobile phones“. This is meant to be a modern dilemma for university teachers according to the article. It flags three main responses to phones ringing or students texting in lectures -
- ban all phones
- shame repeat offenders
- ignore the behaviour and move on
Nearly as an aside, it mentions that that lecturers have been known to encourage the use of mobile technology in class but that this is pretty unusual. While I wouldn’t disagree that it is not the norm, the article doesn’t really examine whether the status quo is the correct position to take. Instead of ignoring the pervasiveness of modern technology, (“Hey, there’s an elephant in the corner of the room but I will ignore it, I will ignore it”) the article would have served better by exploring the ways in which mobile technology could have been used to encourage and enable learning.
Bill Ashraf when at Bradford University used mobile phones for feedback during lectures. Students can text questions during the lecture and every so often he will stop, see what’s there and address them. The students aren’t embarrassed by asking publicly in a big lecture and Bill gets feedback on what the students are having difficulty understanding. Bär et al look at various uses for mobiles including adapting them as student response systems. The constructive educator could find many ways to adopt the use of mobile phones without resorting to public humiliation.
We live in a world that has technology coming out of our ears. We shouldn’t forget our old technologies but neither should we ignore the elephant. It might just sit on us one day!