The ongoing debacle of the 21st century has been the introduction of portable electronics into our everyday lives. In many ways, they have benefited us – making communication easier than ever. In other ways, they have posed concerns regarding appropriate context and usage. The presence of smartphones in the classroom has perhaps become the largest argument for finding the “right place, right time” for electronic devices.
Laptops have become a permanent fixture in many undergraduate classrooms, but are making their way into primary and secondary schools as well. Furthermore, students of all ages have become accustomed to carrying their smartphones with them everywhere they go, and checking these devices during class time.
While smartphones offer peace-of-mind for many parents who insist their kids keep their phones on them at all times, they can also be a tempting distraction for students, constantly pulling their attention away during your lessons. Whether technology is the ally or the enemy will remain an inconclusive argument, but there is a way to deal with its presence in your classroom.
One way to deal with electronics in the classroom is to welcome them. This may sound counter-intuitive, but electronics can actually be used productively. Electronics can contribute to the creation of an interactive classroom, with students using their smartphones to keep in touch regarding projects and lessons plans. Furthermore, smartphones can be actively incorporated into lessons to make them more interesting.
Through the use of apps like Kahoot!, educators can administer in-class multiple choice quizzes and surveys. These can be displayed via browser on a projector, and students can buzz in their answers through the app on their smartphones. Responses are monitored in real time, and the results are shown after each question for students to see how the rest of the class responded and what percentage got the answer right/wrong.
Not only is this an excellent way for educators to measure their students’ progress, but it allows students to build discussions around the questions and use their smartphones to enhance their learning. This is an ideal example of productive electronic use in the classroom. Furthermore, when students are actively using their smartphones for this purpose, they’re less likely to get distracted by text messages, social media, and other communications.
Many educators try to nip the problem of electronics in the classroom by instilling fear in their students. While this may be effective for some, it certainly should not be a go-to solution. Forbidding electronics entirely and threatening punishment can cause some students to feel demotivated and carry this fear into their studies, which will hinder their learning abilities.
Alternatively, make it known to your students that you’re aware of electronics usage. Discourage its use subliminally by instilling a random calling system in your classroom. This will keep your students consistently engaged due to the prospect of being called on at any time, and will ensure they keep their eyes peeled away from their phones.
To avoid making some of your students feel targeted or singled out, you can implement a randomizing method. Either fill a hat with strips of paper containing your student’s names, or install a name generation app that randomly selects who to call on next. Respond civilly and kindly to students who may not know the answers, but certainly don’t doubt that this method will keep them on their toes – and off their phones.
As a teacher, you are in charge of your classroom environment. Naturally, you don’t want to cause your students discomfort. Perhaps the most uncomfortable thing for students is being called out in front of the class for being on their smartphones or getting their phones confiscated. To avoid an embarrassing display like this one, be proactive.
Ask your students to place their smartphones face down in the top corner of their desks upon entering the classroom. This allows you to carefully monitor their smartphone usage during your lesson, while satisfying their need to keep their phones close by. This method is civil yet direct, showing them that you would like to ensure they are paying attention while simultaneously not infringing upon their personal property and space.
Additionally, students won’t want to risk getting caught reaching over for their phone, and won’t be able to come up with flimsy excuses for glancing down periodically if their phone is not on their desk.
Coming to Terms with the Electronic Era
It’s important to accept the abundance of electronics – whether it be smartphones, laptops, or tablets. Using these as tools to supplement your teaching is extremely effective, but may not be feasible. In which case, it’s important you find the right method for dealing with their growing presence.
Deal with electronic usage in your classroom in the way that is most complementary to your teaching style, and remember that your students will respond best to being addressed as equals and not being patronized. Educators who berate their students for electronic usage frequently find it becomes even more of a problem. Rather, make your students aware of the consequences of electronics on their learning experience and allow them to feel as though they are making the choice to put the smartphones down themselves.
Not only do the aforementioned strategies increase your students’ attention span and interest in learning, but it allows them to feel empowered and respected in the process.
Ellie Batchiyska is a writer for Every USB, a custom flash drive manufacturer used frequently by schools, universities, and organizations across the country for branding and material distribution.