Students Tweeting in the Back Row Driving You Crazy?

Students tweeting in the back row driving you crazy? Some faculty members are suggesting we flip this by recognizing mobile devices as an educational tool that can enrich rather than distract the class. A few colleagues sent an article¹ to me on smartphones in the classroom. The author provides 44 suggestions on how the phone/tablet/laptop can be used to enrich the classroom experience for students and faculty. He categorizes them into 5 general categories, saying mobile devices in the classroom can be used to improve collaboration, communication, creation, coordination and curation. Setting the alliteration aside, the content is pretty good. What do you think?

A Few Notes on Access: According to a recent Harris Poll², college students nation-wide are well connected with regard to the digital world.

  • 54% use a single mobile device during a typical school day
  • 89% use a laptop for college-related work every week
  • 56% use a smartphone for college-related work every week
  • 33% use a tablet for college-related work on a weekly basis
  • 96% have wireless Internet access at home
  • 91% have wireless access on campus



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2 Responses to Students Tweeting in the Back Row Driving You Crazy?

  1. Dianne Purves says:

    This article presented many creative ways of using technology in education, but few that I felt warrant bringing electronic devices into class. Here are my objections:

    1. Writing papers, tweeting about class-related material, checking grades, peer reviewing, posting to class-related blogs, preparing presentations or projects; these are things that should be done OUTSIDE of class time, where students have the time to THINK about what they write before they post it.

    2. A lot of this potential use of electronic devices seems geared towards a humanities type classroom. In my biology classroom, we don’t “discuss” or “brainstorm” the structure of a cell – we LEARN it. I know that it is not politically correct to do so these days, but I use lecture as my primary tool. I can’t get through the immense amount of information I need to cover in any other way.

    3. Once the cell phones are out, what’s to prevent the students from looking at funny cat videos instead of doing class-related work?

    4. I see a lot of potential for technical difficulties and program incompatibility when allowing each student to use his or her own personal device. And what about those students (admittedly a minority) who DON’T have a cell phone or who have a very simple one or who don’t have a text or data plan?

    Although I may sound like an old-fashioned, closed-minded windbag professor from the 50s, I assure you that I am not. I am always looking for innovative ways to help my students and make learning biology more engaging. I even invented a set of pipecleaner “chromosomes” that I use in my labs. And, in fact, I DO allow electronic devices in class, although I don’t give assignments that involve their use. My position is: if my students want to tweet rather than pay attention to what I am saying in class, that is their decision. After their first poor exam grade, they may decide to change their in-class behavior. That’s what college is all about.

    Here are some ways that I think electronic devices SHOULD be used in the classroom:
    1. As a substitute for clickers.
    2. As a paperless way to allow students to take quizzes or fill out worksheets in class (although the students would then be able to access the internet to answer questions).
    3. As a way for students to immediately look up the answers to questions that the teacher can’t answer (this happens frequently in my classroom).
    4. As a way for students to have an electronic textbook or the teacher’s Powerpoint presentations on hand, with the ability to write notes on them or highlight them.

    In short, think that using electronic devices, especially cell phones, in the classroom gives you a lot of cool bells and whistles to play with, without actually enhancing the learning process.

    • Reece, Bryan says:

      Thanks for your comments Dianne. You definitely raise some goods points. I also like the four suggestions you close with.

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