, , , , , , ,

As I watch a student get out of his seat and walk out of my classroom to take a call (during the class), I wonder what the importance is while I appreciate the gesture of politeness (trying not to interrupt the lecture and discussion, even though walking out does disrupt the class). I’ve seen many discussions over IF cell phones should be allowed or not, and lists of suggestions for HOW to incorporate them into my class.

I’m still undecided . . .

I’m still undecided. I’ve tried a few things.  But I heard a very nice summary with some general suggestions at a recent conference.

My reflections on the presentation & topic:

“Student Mobile Devices in the Classroom: Disruptive or Manageable?” was presented by Carol A. Savery at the Ohio Communication Association Annual Conference, 2014. Savery summarized research that shows students do use technology for some class-related work and many find cell phones helpful. But usually more often mobile devices are used for unrelated activities such as surfing web sites, email, Facebook, and others (Jackson, 2013).  When instructors consciously, proactively incorporate mobile use in their classes, they can enhance classroom learning (e.g., Cheung, 2008; Pascopella, 2009; Scomavacca, Huff & Marshall, 2009).

Savery also brought up Atchley & Warden’s (2012) research applying standard definitions of addiction to cell phone use:

  • tolerance – decreased value that then requires more use to get the same effect;
  • withdrawal – if you do not have access to your addiction;
  • increased use
  • inability to cut back on use;
  • reducing competing behaviors; and
  • continuing the behavior despite the risks and consequences.

Are my students addicted? If so, what can I do? Make up rules or a policy?

Some instructors (perhaps most) have specific policies on cell and mobile use – but Savery points out, “Having a written mobile device policy is not enough. Instructors must also enforce the policy to be effective” (citing Tindell & Bohlander, 2012). Just like parenting – the follow-up is probably most important (“Put that away, Billy . . . put it away, please . . . put it away, or . . . “)

As a discipline, Communication Studies could provide leadership

Most inspiring and challenging of all is Savery’s suggestion that “As a discipline, Communication Studies could provide leadership on teaching students how to integrate mobile technologies in the classroom in civil, ethical, and conscious ways for in class- specific purposes.” We should be preparing our graduate to know what to do. We’ll be there instead of our company hiring consultants to tell us how to handle it all (like the cell phone courtesy consulting that became big for a while).  Now, to get that on my list of “things to do.”

I won’t even go to the cheating issue . . .


Atchley, P., & Warden, A. C. (2012). The need of young adults to text now. Using delay discounting to assess informational choice. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 1(4): 229-234.

Cheung, S. L. (2008). Using mobile phone messaging as a response medium in classroom experiments. Journal of Economic Education, 39:51–67.

Jackson, L. D. (2013). Is mobile technology in the classroom a helpful tool or a distraction?: A report of university students’ attitudes, usage, practices and suggestions for policies. The International Journal of Technology, Knowledge, and Society, 8, 1832-3669.

Pascopella, A. (2009). From cell phone skeptic to evangelist. District Administration, 45(10): 40–41.

Scomavacca, E., Huff, S. and Marshall, S. (2009). Mobile phones in the classroom: If you can’t beat them, join them. Communications of the ACM, 52(4):142–146.

Tindell D. R. & Bohlander, R. W. (2012). The use and abuse of cell phones and texting messages in the classroom: A survey of college students. College Teaching. 60:1-9.