A geeky professor’s policy towards disruptive use of laptops or other mobile devices in the classroom

Posted by in internet

As far as classroom settings go, I have to be honest: I have a really good gig. My largest class will have around 16 students. In any 90 minute course, I spend less than 15 minutes in “lecture mode,” and can even skip the talking head position completely. Instead, I get to spend time interacting with students, akin to the socratic method, more like a personal trainer whose workout facility is a case discussion.

Furthermore, at least in my classes, I am not treated to a wall of laptop logos and the top of heads when I look into the room. I see a few laptops (two to four), to be clear, but students are predominantly looking over the top of them rather than looking into them.

That said, in order to put these information processing machines to good use, and encourage responsible spending of tuition dollars, the following are the policies I have developed towards “disruptive” use of laptops and other mobile devices in the classroom.

Laptops

I love computers and use one (or more) all the time. However, if you are actively using a laptop during class for reasons that are not directly related to the class discussion, the following policy will apply:

In the case of excessive or disruptive use of laptops in the classroom, I and/or other students in the room reserve the right to constantly pepper you for additional data or background information we might require as part of the case discussion in which we are engaged.

Yes, that means that I relinquish to the students in the room (you know, the folks who can see your screen) the right, but not the obligation, to request data/information from you if you are spending a bit too much time on Facebook, ESPN.com, or other popular online destinations.

Mobile Devices

Truly mobile devices (e.g., cell/mobile phones and tablet computers) are awesome and perhaps even necessary for modern life. I completely understand if you need to very occasionally check for email, respond to a text message, or even step out of the room to take an important call (which definitely can happen during interview season).

However, “excessive” use of a phone or tablet in the classroom can be disruptive for other people (who really want to use their phones too!). So here is the policy:

Excessive and/or disruptive use of a mobile device in the classroom will result in you preparing a five minute presentation to the class on the implications of mobile devices for the case under discussion. You will have only ten minutes to prepare this presentation, and can only use the mobile device in question for your research and presentation.

Simple and fair enough, in my world.