Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Smartphone Revolution

Last time I talked about the smartphone revolution, and how it seems to have gone unnoticed by many as a true revolution.  I believe this is the case because many still view these computers in our pockets as "phones" and not miniature personal computers.

I see this often in my line of work as a college professor, as professors are struggling with classroom use of these devices.  Many ban smartphones in the classroom altogether.  I think this is a mistake for two reasons.  First, it creates enmity between student and professor.  For many of the millennial generation, the smartphone is their best friend, their connection to the world, their personal symbol of freedom and autonomy.  If you tell them on the first day of class that these devices are not welcome in class, it starts the class off with an adversarial tone setting up the student against professor.  But, second, and I think far more damaging, it handcuffs the student by removing one of their most powerful resources for learning.  Here students have access to the full internet plus numerous educational apps, yet professors tell them to put these devices away.

I think that this "No Smartphones Policy" has to do with failing to see the smartphone as a true revolution.  I think that these professors still view these devices primarily as phones.  They are just carrying over accepted phone etiquette.

Every new technology requires people to work out new policies of etiquette.  It made sense to have a no phone policy when phones were just phones.  Of course students should not take and receive phone calls in class.  Even with the advent of texting (pre-smartphone), the no phone policy made sense.  No urgent need to text.  But, with the advent of the true smartphone, the internet connected computer in your pocket, I think it is time to develop new etiquette policies that do not handcuff the student and deny one of their most powerful learning tools.

So, instead of banning phones, isn't it time to come up with a new system of etiquette that teaches students respectful and proper use of these devices, while making use of these powerful tools in the classroom?

If any professors happen to be reading this, what is your policy for smartphones in the classroom? Should they be used or banned?  How do you control misuse?

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