My New Classroom Cell Phone Policy

To: My future students

Re: My new cell phone policy

I am not a Luddite. I use our online classroom management website. In some of my classes, I ask students to blog about the ideas we discuss in class. I’ve Googled things in class. I’ve asked you to Google things in class. I like technology. But I can no longer, in good conscience, turn a blind eye to cell phone use in class.

Here is the new policy:

If I see or hear your cell phone during class, you will be marked absent for that class period. In turn, if you hear or see my cell phone during class, I will bring you cookies. Not homemade cookies, but cookies nonetheless. (Truly, I’m not asking you to do anything that I’m not willing to do myself.)

There are some exceptions to this rule:

  1. If you have a sick family member (especially one that you are in charge of caring for), then you may have your phone’s ringer on, but your phone must be in your bag. Please give me a heads-up about this situation. You don’t have to give me details. Just let me know your phone might ring during class.
  2. If you have a spouse who is in the military and s/he only gets a couple phone calls a month and his or her time slot for the phone just happens to be during our class, you may have your phone’s ringer on. (This really happened once.)
  3. If we decide, as a class, to use the Internet to look something up.
  4. If I use poll everywhere to ask you a question. Admittedly, I haven’t gotten around to using this tool yet, but it looks fun.

I’m open to discussing other possible exceptions as they come up.

Students, this policy is for you, not me. I don’t really want another thing to police in a classroom full of adults. I don’t really want you complaining about me and my Draconian-like policies behind my back. My life would be easier if I didn’t care about you. But I do care about you. So much. Here’s why this decision is for you:

  1. There is strong evidence that your phone use negatively affects your academic performance. Seriously. A recent study found that “after controlling for other established predictors [like high school GPA and how self-regulated a student is about studying], increased cell phone use was associated with decreased academic performance.”
  2. Your grades are negatively affected by cell phone use because you’re actually really bad at multitasking. You can’t focus on class and focus on your phone. Humans are just set up that way.
  3. And, even if you think you’re an outlier – a rare person who can multitask (BTW, if that’s you, can I study you? It’ll be a really great paper.), your neighbor probably isn’t. And it’s distracting to watch you multitask on your phone (or laptop) during class. For real. I’ve seen a student watch a movie over the shoulder of another student during class – and the student playing the movie didn’t even notice. It was a movie with a long, compelling chase scene. I know because I also secretly watched some of it over the student’s shoulder.
  4. Our privacy is important. We talk about really hard stuff in our class. And we try to talk openly in a way that allows us all to grow. We need privacy in order to talk openly. No one should be worried that what they say can be put, out of context, on Yik Yak.

That’s it. I want you to know that I’ve put a lot of thought into this. And it’s not because I dislike you. It’s actually because I really like you.


Your instructor