What To Do With Your Cellphone In Class?

         Sometimes I think back to the old days. I started teaching in graduate school way back in 1984 and have been a college professor teaching classes since 1988. In those early days, of course, there were no cell phones, ipads, notebooks, or laptops. Students came to class and did not have the potential distraction of an electronic device. Oh how things have changed! Now students come to class, often with multiple electronic devices, and they are ready and willing to use these devices in class. However, there is a question about how you should think about these devices, specifically your cell phone, in class.

cellphoneblogger-336371_1280         In answering this question, I want to begin by saying that myself and most other faculty use our cellphones a lot. We are heavily into them, using them all of the time to call people, text, check out the Internet, play games, etc. Thus, what I will say isn’t the case of an old faculty member who refuses to accept the innovations of the 21st century. With this in mind, just hear me out on what I think you should do with your cellphone in class.

1) In thinking about what to do with your cell phone in class, you need to first change the way you think about your attachment to your cellphone. I am sure that in certain ways you and your cellphone are “one”. However, in the classroom you just can’t be thinking about things in this way. Part of the issue is that you need to pay attention to what is being said in class, take notes, and participate in class. You are going to be limited in these activities if you are checking your cellphone every few seconds to see if you have a new text. Let me add two things about this change of thinking. First, the size of the class should not matter here, because even large classes will require you to be attentive and complete your work. Second research has shown that students understand that a classroom is an inappropriate place to use a cellphone (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/229862354_Cellular_phone_etiquette_among_college_students)

 2) Figure out a strategy that will keep you from constantly looking at your phone. For example, it might be best to put your cellphone in your backpack or in your pocket with the ringer turned off. You will be able to hear it buzz or feel the vibration (especially in your pocket) if an emergency call or text is coming through, but you are not looking at your cellphone all of the time. You might want to check, however, if having the buzzer on is OK, or if your Instructor expects your cellphone to be on silent. To me it is only reasonable to allow for a buzzer in case of an emergency (see #5 below). Will it be tough to follow this type of strategy? Of course! But, you need to stop yourself in some way, and having your cellphone out of view is very important. One other thing to point out here is that I know some people look at their cellphone a lot to check out the time; their cellphone serves as a watch. Still, you need to try and stop looking at your cellphone so much. Looking at the time will typically lead to checking phone calls, texts, and the Internet. Therefore, get used to checking the time by looking at the classroom clock.

3) Understand the rules for cellphone use that are presented in each course syllabus. It is likely the case that your Instructor will frown upon cellphone use unless it is used in conjunction with an educational app, and will state in the syllabus that you should not use it during class. This may even include telling you that you cannot use your cellphone to take pictures of material presented on the board/screen. In some cases (so I have heard) things may be much stricter, and the Instructor may include penalizing points for using your cellphone. Finally, it is possible that your Instructor will allow you to have your cellphone out, although the ringer must be off. The key is that there is almost surely going to be something in the syllabus for each of your classes about cellphones, and you need to know this information.

cellphonetexting-593321_12804) Don’t try to play games with your Instructor. By this I mean that over the years I have encountered students who either think they can “pull one on the old guy” or that I am simply “out of it”. This includes students who text with their phones on their lap. Do they think I really cannot see them? I guess not, but even in a room with 500 students you can see students texting—a student moving their hands in their lap with their head down when I am not lecturing is a dead giveaway! When your Instructor says no cellphones can be out they mean it. One caveat to all of this is that I have talked to students who make an interesting point about cellphone use. They tell me that sometimes students who pull out their cellphones are not being intentionally rude, but are doing so automatically (i.e., “texting unconsciously”)—they are not really aware that they are being rude. As a psychologist, I understand what they are saying but this can still turn into a big problem, and to me indicates all the more reason why that these students need to put their cellphone in their backpacks during class.

5) Think about the best way to use your cellphone in case of an emergency. Of course, emergencies happen and having a cellphone is just what we all need to be able to deal with the unexpected. Because of the importance of cellphones in these situations, check to be sure you can have your phone on buzzer so you can hear if an unexpected text or phone call is coming through. If your Instructor expects you to have your phone on silent, you might want to approach them and see if there is any flexibility on this rule. I am betting your Instructor will see your point of view, especially because it is likely the case that your Instructor has their phone on buzzer. On a related point, if an emergency call or text comes through, my advice is to get up quietly from your seat and go into the hallway to talk or text. You might even want to later explain to your Instructor why you had to leave the classroom.

In the end, like many other issues dealing with being in class, it is important that your cellphone use allows you to be courteous and respectful to your Instructor and your classmates. This behavior will make for a more positive classroom experience.

Please note that the comments of Dr. Golding and the others who post on this blog express their own opinion and not that of the University of Kentucky.

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Surviving in a Large Lecture-2

Previously I discussed how important the Instructor is to having a great experience in a large class. You also have a big responsibility in a large class. Here are 7 tips I think you need to keep in mind for large classes:

1) Avoid any temptation to get lost in the crowd. With so many students it is very easy to let the crowd take over and lose your individuality. Be yourself, not a number!

(2) Attend class! Be part of the college experience by interacting with your Instructor and the other students in class. Moreover, there is usually a strong relationship between attending class and getting a high grade.

(3) Get to class early. This will give you a better chance to get a seat near the front of class where you have a great chance to talk to the Instructor and you can focus on the lecture. Also, you have some time to talk to the people who sit near you. It is really important to get to know people in your class, not only for notes but because your classmates are potential life-long friends.

(4) Try your best not come to class late or leave early. Quite frankly, this can really be rude. Also, when you arrive late or leave early everyone notices—I don’t think you want the “spotlight” on you. In addition, when you come in late or leave early it can interfere with the Instructor’s lecture. Of course, sometimes things are beyond your control, so if you must arrive late or leave early do it in a way that you will hardly be noticed.

(5) Don’t be afraid to ask a question/make a comment during class. Too often students think that this will annoy the Instructor of a large class. I know I don t mind questions/comments at all, and I think most faculty don’t either. Go for it! It is probably something others in the class are thinking.

(6) Talk to your Instructor. This can be in class or during their office hours. Quick hint: Remind your Instructor of your name each time you interact because it may take just a bit for your Instructor to really learn your name. You never know how getting to know your Professor can help if you need a letter of recommendation or when there is an opportunity to get involved with that Instructor’s research.

(7) Come to your large class focused and ready to learn. Having a more “positive” attitude will probably lead to your liking the class more, learning more, doing better in the class, and finding that the time of the class zips by.

Enjoy your large classes!

Surviving in a Large Lecture 1

For better or worse, many of you will likely take large classes in college. In case you’re wondering what “large” means, it’s relative—that is, it’s defined in comparison to the size of the other classes at your school. At a big university you might have 50,000 total students on campus and large classes of several hundred or even close to a thousand students. Your class might have more than your entire high school graduating class, and this can be pretty daunting to think about. Do NOT let this overwhelm you! If you think that any big class should be avoided, stop assuming this, because it’s simply not true. Some of my best classes were large classes and some of my worst classes were small classes.

Keep in mind that whether a large class is successful greatly depends on the instructor—there are countless examples of students packing a lecture hall just to hear a certain professor teach. Most instructors who teach these classes are volunteers, because teaching this kind of class requires a lot of work. Instructors not only have to make sure that each lecture is highly organized, but also have to be prepared to deal with many more students than normal. They generally have to be more organized than other instructors, because the class would be unmanageable if they weren’t. Therefore, your instructor will know how to speak clearly, present demonstrations, show videos, and use other technology like social media.

Instructors who teach large classes often have a certain personality. It is hard to pin down that personality, but one way to think about it is that great instructors of large classes really show (verbally and non-verbally) how much they love being in front of a crowd. In addition, these great instructors always think of exciting things to do in class that will motivate you to keep attending. The key thing is that an experienced and motivated instructor will work hard to make a large class more like a small class. You’ll feel part of a community, rather than feeling like an isolated student. One last thing to keep in mind: if you get into a large class, and you can tell right away that the Instructor just doesn’t care about the class (let alone you), my advice is that you should drop it and add some other class.