Education and the Stigma of Mobile Devices

Mobile devices, such as smart phones, and educational institutions (let us say college) don't always see eye to eye. A particular event in class today made me suddenly aware of this fact. While I completely understand the stigma surrounding the use of "cell phones" in the classroom, I feel there is a whole utilitarian side of a mobile device that some teachers discredit.

Now before I begin what I'm about to say, I would like to make a disclaimer that this post is not directed towards any particular instructor of mine, but more of an observation of a student that is heavily invested in the advantages technology can give us. I completely understand and respect any teachers' decision to disallow their students to sit in class and use a phone. No teacher wants to be interrupted by an obnoxious ringtone while they are trying to teach. Nor would they want their students to be ignoring them while they text their friends about the latest shoes they purchased at the mall. I can fully understand why and how some teachers have formulated the opinions that they have about seeing a student sitting in class using a "phone".

Today as I sat in my class listening to my teacher, I had my "phone" (an Android smart phone) recording the lecture while I took down notes in a notebook (the old fashion paper kind). This is extremely handy for me because I cannot write by hand fast enough and have to paraphrase my notes. Also we are given tests based on these lectures so making sure I haven't missed anything is very helpful. This way I can go home and replay the lecture and fill in any details I may have missed. The problem here though, lies in the fact that in the beginning of the semester my instructor made perfectly clear "Turn off all phones". It is even clearly written down in the syllabus, and like I said earlier, I get that. I do in fact see some people abuse their phones in the middle of class and it annoys me as well. The thing is though, I am 100% sure that what that is really saying is "I don't want to hear your ringtone, and please do not text, talk, or play games on your phones in the middle of class." A perfectly respectable request I might add. I make it a priority to turn off my ringer the moment I walk into school and I don't text during class and I would never be so brazen as to actually carry on a conversation on my phone in the middle of class.

After the lecture was done my instructor let us know what we should read in our books for the next week.  So what do I do? I grab my mobile device and I enter my homework into my Google Calendar. This Calendar is synced to Google's cloud based calendar so no matter where I am I can check on what homework assignments I have to complete for the week and..."Turn that phone off please." These are the abrupt words I hear from my instructor, as I am "essentially" writing down my assignments for the week...but into my smart phone.

The problem here is that my "phone" is so much more capable of doing amazing things for me than simply being a phone. Yet all my instructor sees is a student "texting" in class.  In the entirety of that class today I used my mobile device to....

1.) Look up and check my teachers syllabus to see what the grade scale was for a quiz I had just received back. A syllabus that was posted online through Blackboard, and which I am able to view digitally via the Blackboard Mobile App.

2.) Brought up my dictionary.com app to look up a word that my instructor had said.

3.) Recorded an excellent lecture while I paraphrased on paper.

4.) Entered my homework into a digital web based calendar.*

*all of this was quietly done and went unnoticed until #4

An entire backpack of calenders, notebooks, planners, and heck..even textbooks can be and IS all contained inside this mobile computer that I carry around in my pocket. It only took my teacher a split second to see me, deem that I was texting, and tell me to turn it off. Which, I might add, I did without hesitation. I often wonder though, If I had instead checked the paper syllabus for the grade scale, produced an actual dictionary book to look up an unknown word, written down my homework in a paper planner, would my teacher have taken a glance at me and said "Put that all away". I do understand that what it looks like is just another student on a cell phone playing Angry Birds, but I guess what I hope is that more teachers take the time to see that these devices are so much more than just phones in today's world. They are full blown computers now, capable of assisting us through our own educational process in the same way that a textbook or daily planner does.

I don't propose to have the answer as to how a teacher can distinguish between acceptable classroom mobile device usage or not, but just to be aware that there are those of us out there using these amazing devices to greater effect than "texting" in class.

1 comment:

  1. Very good point Ike, I have run into this problem myself. I'm am terrible with remembering dates so I use my smartphone as a way to keep all my obligation in order. It may be tough for teacher to understand the appropriate use of smartphone in class but these devices have the ability to do so much more then just text your friends.