NPR’s article is the latest in a series that asks how professors deal with cellphones and laptops in the classroom. I don’t include anything in my syllabi about it, but I usually make a brief announcement on the first class of the semester explaining my policy.
See, it’s different when you’re teaching adult learners. At UMUC and the University of Baltimore, both, my students have been adult learners, or even graduate students, generally working adults with family. Class is one night a week, 1900-2145 at UMUC or 2015-2245 at UB, and that means a night out. And that means keeping an eye on the kids, even if remotely. And I get that.
So my policy is always, using a laptop to take notes is fine. I don’t worry about Facebooking during class. And if you need to make/take a call, just politely step out and do it in the hallway.
Kind of related to this, I am generally okay with food in the classroom. Dinners get missed when those times are the class times, and if eating in class is the way dinner gets eaten, I am okay with that, too.
One-size-fits-all approaches to technology and other potential disrupters in the classroom don’t work. Professors need to be cognizant of the class and its composition when setting these policies.
Image by Intel Free Space / Flickr.