Thursday, June 11, 2009

Cell phone manifesto

There used to be a big problem with cell phones ringing during class. That doesn't happen very often any more. Two reasons: 1) experience evolving into etiquette, and 2) the students are ALWAYS using their phones, so there is NO CHANCE for them to go off.

What am I blathering about? Students are now constantly texting or web-surfing on their phones. Up til this point, I hadn't cared. You want to ignore part of the class? Fine, I know it'll show up in your grade. However, for the first time, the correlation between attendance and performance has waned in my astronomy courses. Even the students who know it's rude to use the cell phone during class feel no remorse about jumping in and out of the classroom to use it. So now it has turned into a distraction for more than just the user. Which is funny, as you'd think the cell phone ringing would be more annoying, but it isn't. I have a couple of specific examples from this last semester that have motivated me to come up with a long, clear cell phone policy for my syllabi. Here's a first draft:


All electronic devices must be turned to “silent” before class starts. Cell phones should not be in use during the class period at any time. Usage includes answering the phone, making calls, sending and receiving text messages, browsing the internet, listening to music, taking or looking at photographs or using the phone as a calculator. If such usage is noted by the instructor, the student will be asked to leave class for the day.

Any usage of a cell phone during an exam will mean that the student is finished with the exam, and the exam must be turned in to the instructor at that time.

If there is an extenuating circumstance (ex: on-call at work, family emergency) that means that the student must be in contact via voice/text messaging, the student must inform the instructor at the beginning of the class period. Any voice/text messaging in that case must be conducted outside of the classroom. The student will be as silent as possible in this situation out of respect to fellow classmates and the instructor.

Comments? Suggestions? HELP!?!?! Sadly, this is now the longest part of the syllabus!!!!


Greg van Eekhout said...

No mention of a-thwackin'? Cuz you know my philosophy: You a-thwack one person on the first day of class, problem solved for rest of the semester. But you have to a-thwack 'em HARD.

Virtualbri said...

ELECTRONIC DEVICE POLICY: To reduce disruptions, and out of respect to the instructor and students, leave all non-notetaking devices (wireless devices, music players, cel phones, etc.) off or you will be asked to leave class for the day.

Electronic Device use during testing will require your immediate return of the exam to the instructor, and/or failure of the exam.

I'd just make it more general so "use a wireless device, get kicked out" is the general rule for class.

If someone really needs to respond to a call from work then they're not coming back anyway. Or if it's some family emergency, they're going concentrate more on that as it is, so they're probably not getting much out of class as it is, so I would just ask them to leave if they need to answer the phone, or turn it off and not be distracted by it.

At best, you could ask for them to sit next to a door, but I'm a not meaner than you so I'd just say go and don't come back for the day.

And I'd leave open the door to fail them for checking their phone, because they could have notes to cheat on it.

Rachel said...

I like Brian's suggestion. One of the pitfalls of trying to be too specific is that it seems to open the door to looking for loopholes.


Sarah Prineas said...

Sounds perfectly reasonable to me.

Once you add the a-thwackin' that's clearly called for.

Dr. Lisa said...

Great suggestions, everyone, starting with "a-thwackin'".

I'm torn on making the policy more general, as students will always do something unless it is strictly prohibited.

I've seen students try to cheat by websurfing on their phones before. As that doesn't exactly help them on their exams, I couldn't care less, but now I see nearby students getting upset over it. Must be forbidden.

Can't use the word "cheat" without opening a bucket of worms, which is why I'll leave the "turn in the test" phrase in there.

Hmmm... keep the comments coming, and I'll try to make a better second draft! Thanks!

PHil. said...

Does the school have a policy at all? At my school we have people using laptops, though in the cases where the professor has asked not to people put them away. Of course, a grad school is a different animal than yours. I know at the high school level they can confiscate cellphones and can have a zero tolerance policy, but that probably isn't the case at your school. You certainly can't make the students parents come pick up the phone :)

Dr. Lisa said...

Some students do use computers to take their notes, which I'm fine with. Because of the iffy wireless access in our building, students using laptops actually isn't as problematic as phone usage.

Would it surprise you to know that parents make up a decent fraction of the distractions to begin with? I remember once, years ago, grabbing a student's phone and telling her mother to PLEASE stop calling during my class!

Professor V said...

Hey Lisa. I'm lucky enough not to have this problem although I'm not sure why so I'm not sure I can offer much in the way of help. I'm curious if attendance is mandatory in your class. My guess is that one thing that helps me is I don't require students to come to class so the ones that probably _would_ be causing the problems just aren't there at all.

Dr. Lisa said...

Hello, Professor V!

Attendance isn't mandatory, but there are in-class exercises (not necessarily every day) that are counted towards the grade. I've always wanted to encourage attendance because of the positive correlation with performance! That's one of the reasons I'm so exasperated now. Attendance and performance are still strongly correlated, but there are more outliers than there used to be.

AaronJV said...

Sounds good to me, though you may want to explain your reasoning: that it distracts other students.

Just a suggestion.

Dr. Lisa said...

They should be more worried that they annoy me. ;)

jake li said...

good post beautifull

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