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Yeahright's avatar

What should a teacher do re student cell phone use in the classroom?

Asked by Yeahright (2298 points ) June 20th, 2012

If students brazenly disregard the no cell phone use in the classroom what should the teacher do? Should the teacher confront the students or relax and let it pass? After all, teachers should go with the times and go with the flow not against. What are the pros and cons of student cell phone use in class.

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48 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

it is very straightforward. A teacher comes to class prepared to teach; his or her students have the same obligation and that does not include using cell phones.

The teacher announces that cell phones may not be used during his class for any reason; if they are, he will confiscate them.

Teachers are allowed to regulate the flow.

The teacher has a duty to be the adult and set the standards. Students can take classes in goofing off elsewhere for a much cheaper fee.

JLeslie's avatar

Go with the flow? The times? Are you serious? This is not about cell phones, this is about paying attention in class, having some respect, and treating others as you would want to be treated. The teacher might overlook it sometimes because she doesn’t want to bother, but if she sends the student to the principals office, or doles out detention, or calls the child’s parent, all that is fine with me.

jca's avatar

“Teachers should go with the flow and keep up with the times?” Then why is the teacher there? Why are the students there? Are they there to text and chat? is the teacher getting paid to be ignored?

Aethelflaed's avatar

Is this high school, or college?

athenasgriffin's avatar

If you are a teacher looking for advice, I’ve seen policies such as requiring people whose cell phones go off in class to sing or do some form of physical task to be effective at the college level. It amuses everyone, and all are afraid of being the one who has to sing.

Also, I would personally only pay attention to the phones that make noise. It truly does distract everyone and is rude.

WestRiverrat's avatar

The teacher should throw the cell phone onto the roof of the school building.

And give the kid a 0 for the day.

DrBill's avatar

In my class, I take the phone, send the phone and the student to see the dean, and while they are gone I give out information about the next test.

Response moderated (Off-Topic)
jonsblond's avatar

Don’t you miss the good old days when we used to get in trouble for passing notes. sigh

WestRiverrat's avatar

Actually if I was sitting in that classroom trying to get an education, the teacher wouldn’t have to do anything. If I am paying good money to learn something, no asshat sitting next to me playing on their phone is going to ruin it for me.

Aethelflaed's avatar

Then, get over it unless it happens more than a couple times, or for prolonged periods of time. Especially since there’s a chance that someday, you might be anxiously waiting for a text about if your dad got out of heart surgery ok or whatever, and lordy will you get hell if you get flexibility but the students don’t.

If it does happen more than a couple times or for prolonged periods, kick them out. Taking the phone is called “stealing”, and it’s a crime. Kicking them out of the class for the day is not.

JLeslie's avatar

Oh college?! I assumed since the OP used the word teacher and not prefessor we were talking about k-12. I still think students shouldn’t be using their phone, but if it is on very rare occassion, only for a minute or two when it does happen, and not bothering anyone else, I think the professor should ignore it. If the student is on her phone every time class is held, I think it is extremely rude, and the teacher should ask the student to stop, preferbly after class.

Yeahright's avatar

@Aethelflaed It is very difficult to get over it because it is very distracting. If a student is expecting a call or text about a family matter or so, he can inform the teacher before the class starts.

Fly's avatar

I think it depends on the class to begin with.

If it’s an honors/advanced/AP, etc. class filled mostly by students who want to learn, I think the teacher should just let it be. Those students tend to be mature enough to know when it is and is not appropriate to text; they are careful not to affect the learning environment and are not easily distracted by those who are not as mature. Those who are not willing to put in the effort should be allowed to suffer the natural consequences of their actions (i.e. poor grades/failing), in my opinion. However, if a student routinely disrupts the learning environment, I do think that there should be appropriate punishment from the teacher.

In an unruly class that tends to misbehave, is easily distracted, etc. and can’t handle the responsibility of texting (typically lower level classes and required classes), I do think that there should be a rule against having cell phones out and an established system of actions/punishments from the teacher for offenders.

Edit: Now that I know the context is in college, I think attention should only be drawn to those whose phones actually go off (audibly enough to be disruptive during class, as in a ringtone/text tone, not on vibrate/silent). For that, I like the idea of a more embarrassing “punishment,” like @athenasgriffin mentioned. I don’t think that just having a phone out/texting alone is worth punishment, though; discussion after class would be appropriate if a student frequently had their phone out during class, but I don’t think checking a phone/texting on occasion is worth addressing.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@Yeahright The student is not obligated to inform the professor of personal matters, seeing as how they are, you know, personal. The professor might instead want to set an example about how to not let minor distractions derail you so much; learning to deal with distractions is actually a major life skill.

gailcalled's avatar

The teacher and the students have a social contract…the students’ role is to pay attention. Otherwise, leave the classroom and text to your heart’s content.

How many students on phones during class time does it take to turn from a minor to a major distraction? If I were the teacher, I would say, “One.”

Yeahright's avatar

@gailcalled That’s exactly how I feel.
@Aethelflaed I don’t ask them to tell me their personal matters in detail, just to inform me that they are expecting an important call so that I know what’s going on should they need to leave the classroom to take the call.

JLeslie's avatar

I’m with @Aethelflaed. I have had profs make a scene about students arriving late and the professor was the person who was disruptive not the late student. College students are usually mature enough not to cause a big stir, and show respect to the learning process. I would assume the professor who is really peeved about it, is probably very annoyed by cell phones in general being used in public areas. But, then assumptions are usually wrong, so I might be way off. I think the same about a prof who makes a big deal about the tardy student, they probably cannot understand for the life of them why their friend Suzy runs ten minutes late all the time.

JLeslie's avatar

@Yeahright Oh, you are the professor. Is it lots of students all the time? In every class? Or, just a once in a blue moon thing?

gailcalled's avatar

If I were Suzy’s prof., I wouldn’t understand either why she is ten minutes late all the time. Why is she?

JLeslie's avatar

@gailcalled Prof or friend?

Yeahright's avatar

@JLeslie Yes, a few students all the time in every class. Very disruptive for me. I am trying to be in control of the content matter, activities to be completed, assignments, class time, etc. So, it is very annoying when they are not looking at me and clearly not paying attention to what I’m saying…

JLeslie's avatar

@Yeahright Have you asked the students not to use their cell phones in class? If it is a constant problem daily then I think it is reasonable to address it, ask for their cooperation. I do agree overall they should not have their phones out. Some students will be unfocused anyway; writing a note, doodling in a notebook, etc.

Mariah's avatar

In college I think it’s time to let students shoot themselves in the foot if that’s what they want to do. Professors aren’t there to hold their hands and save them from their own bad habits. If the cell phone is distracting to more than just the user, that’s when it’s probably time to take action. I like how my physics 1 prof handled that: if your phone went off in class, she’d answer it.

gailcalled's avatar

I would announce your policy to the entire class on the first day (how big is the class, anyway?) and also the penalties.

Check with your department chairman on what you can or cannot do. Are you able to ask the offending student to leave the room?

I went through four years of college before cell phones. Only once during that time, did someone come in to talk privately to a student about a pressing family matter that couldn’t wait for 45 minutes.

Fly's avatar

@Yeahright I’m sure it’s annoying, but you have done your part; the student has to do theirs. If they choose not to pay attention in class, then let them suffer the repercussions of their irresponsibility. As long is it is not significantly disruptive to your class, it is not your responsibility to babysit your students. They are adults, treat them like adults, even if they are incapable of acting like adults themselves.

Yeahright's avatar

@JLeslie Yes the no cell use is stated in the class policies which I announce at the beginning of the term and is also in the syllabus as well as the class page.

Yeahright's avatar

@gailcalled it’s 4 sections of 25–30 students

JLeslie's avatar

@Fly @Mariah I think @Yeahright is saying it really bothers her, not so much she cares about whether the sudent is learning or not.

@Yeahright I say just remind them every so often. How many students in the class?

Edit: just saw your answer 30 students. That’s a pretty small class, so I can see why it would stand out when someone uses their phone. For me personally if it was just one or two students here and there I could ignore it, especially if it was different students every time and not one constant offender. But, it obviously really bothers you, so if there is a couple students who are always the ones breaking the rules, ask them after class to quit it. I am not in favor of a scene during class that tries to embarass them.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@Mariah I agree about letting students shoot themselves in the foot, and treating them like adults. But the answering their phones? No. Boundary violation.

Mariah's avatar

@Aethelflaed Good point. You know, I never saw her actually answer a phone, that’s just what she said she would do. Seemed to be pretty good deterrent at any rate.

@JLeslie Ah, in that case…I dunno, it’s obviously disrespectful, and probably they are just goofing off, but you just don’t know what’s going on in someone’s life…maybe they’re waiting on a call from a doctor or something, you know? I feel like if the phone isn’t disruptive to people outside the user, maybe it’s best to let it slide. Just my thoughts anyway.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@Yeahright So then flunk them when they don’t know the material. Remind them at the beginning of the next class that there is a no cell phones policy. Then when they break it, say “could you please put your phone away?” And then start kick them out of class. Remind yourself that while they are going into debt at the moment, you are actually earning money.

@Mariah Yeah, I had a professor threaten to do that once, too. The awesome part? About halfway through the semester, his phone went off, and then, our conversation stopped being about the book we were supposed to be discussing, and onto the apparently double standard. Which was much more of a derail than the actual phone going off.

Trillian's avatar

“After all, teachers should go with the times and go with the flow not against. What are the pros and cons of student cell phone use in class.”
I was going to lace into this question with a few choice pithy phrases but I see that everybody has beat me to it. Sorry, I didn’t read all the responses, so I hope I’m not repeating after someone when I content myself with pointing out that the lack of a question mark after the word “class” should be adequate proof that someone is clearly not paying attention when they should be.
I HATE people who are so discourteous that I miss what is being said because of thier oblivious yammering.
SCORE! @OP!

Yeahright's avatar

@Trillian Sorry about the question mark…and it’s adequate.

JLeslie's avatar

I am still really in line with @Aethelflaed. As a college student I felt like I was paying the professor’s salary, he worked for me. I do think we owe the professor respect, as we do people in general in every day life, don’t get me wrong.

I had a professor who didn’t allow a student in class if they were late. The student would walk in and there would be a back and forth about how the student should not sit down and walk himself out. I complained about that professor to the dean. The prof was gone next semester, not sure what happened. I was not late to class myself.

bookish1's avatar

Well, I am a TA also and it seems to me that cell phones ringing in class is a different matter from talking on the phone or texting while in class. Holy crap, I do not tolerate the latter.

On the first day of class, I lay out my expectations real clearly, and I even hand out a section syllabus with a list of rules. I tell my students if they are expecting a call that they deem to be important enough that it’s necessary to miss some of the class, they should act like friggin adults and leave class quietly to take the call. This has worked well for me.

If I see a student playing with their phone under their desk or some crap, I just note it and email them about it later, and they are usually very apologetic and do not do it again, knowing that I keep a good eye on the class.

ucme's avatar

Bottom line : Insert devices up their arseholes, they will now have a shit signal & negligible bluetooth capablities.

Yeahright's avatar

@bookish1 The email idea sounds great. Thank you very much. I will definitely try that and see how it works.

JLeslie's avatar

Email sounds like a great idea, something I didn’t think of because we didn’t have it when I was in school. I don’t see the big difference between that and speaking to the student after class, but I guess you feel more comfortable not confronting them face to face? Or, maybe it is difficult to ask them to stay after for a minute? I’m just curious. I mentioned speaking to the student directly a couple of times, and not doing some scene in class, and it was completely overlooked. Not that I need people to take my advice or acknowledge what I wrote, I could care less. If @bookish1 gave a better answer I think that is wonderful he helped you, that is what fluther is for, but I just wondered the real difference between the two.

Yeahright's avatar

@JLeslie It was not overlooked at all but talking to them both in class and after class is just something I have done already and I am looking for new ways to tackle the problem. The email thing is something I hadn’t thought about before and that I can add to my arsenal of defense mechanisms. I don’t see @bookish1 as a better answer to the rest. As I said, it was just something new.
The difference from talking to them directly is that perhaps when they are at home on their own, they are in a better position to reflect and reconsider their actions in class without the peer pressure that comes when their classmates are around. An email is also a good way to have written proof that the issue has been dealt with in a formal manner and is also a way to build a case against those students who are difficult (should the problem escalate). I know you are not looking for validation of your advice which by the way was acknowledged 100%. This has been very helpful and I am glad I decided to post the question here. I am actually making two lists out of all the advice/comments here: one for my personal use on the various ways that I can handle the problem; and a second one to remind my class of the reasons why I have a no cell phone use in class policy.

JLeslie's avatar

@Yeahright Makes sense. Let us know if it works. I hope it does.

And, welcome to fluther.

bookish1's avatar

@Yeahright, glad to be of help.

@JLeslie: The reason I don’t try to deal with problems like this via talking with students after class is that they are often in a great rush to get to their next class, or buy lunch so they can eat it in their next class, etc. An email from the prof is far more likely to get their attention and set off alarm bells. (And check your email gawdammit is one of the rules I lay out on the first day of class, so they have no excuse.)

skfinkel's avatar

If I were still teaching, I think I would do what they do in theaters and shows and airplanes, please turn off all phones. I teach interactively, and everyone is needed to participate actively in the class, so phones would be a huge distraction.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

As a former classroom instructor, I used the same formula that @bookish1 does. Setting the ground rules on the first day and a quick reminder at the beginning of each class usually did the trick.

One other tactic that worked well was walking towards the guilty participant. Nothing needed to be said; they got the message.

JLeslie's avatar

Oh yeah…the walk. Hahahaha. I know exactly what @Pied_Pfeffer means.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Just for a bit of comic relief, you might enjoy this pre-movie ad used at a theater. I would be tempted to use it in a classroom setting for adults. NSFW – Austin Drafthouse Commercial.

josie's avatar

Throw them out of class. Seems pretty obvious, since the no phone rule is in place

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