Thursday, March 8, 2018

Allowing Mobile Devices in the Classroom - Are You For or Against?

In the August, 2016 blog post "Student Dependence on Technology - Interesting Facts" the following statistics about college students and technology were provided:
  • 73% of college students (sample size of 500) said that they cannot study without technology.
  • 38% of students cannot go more than 10 minutes without checking their email, tablet, laptop, or smartphone.
  • 70% of students use keyboards to take notes instead of pen and paper.
  • 91% of students used email to communicate with their instructor.
  • Digital textbooks cost approximately 40% less than printed textbooks.
With those statistics in mind, what is your stance on whether or not mobile devices and phones should be allowed in the classroom? In the article, "Laptops and Phones in the Classroom: Yea, Nay or a Third Way?" Kamenetz (2018) provided some of the pros and cons of this debate.

Arguments Against Allowing Personal Devices in the Classroom

The naysayers worry that phones are distracting to students in the classroom. One faculty stated, "If something on their desk or in their pocket dings, rings or vibrates--they will lose focus". In addition, there may be missed opportunities for social interaction if each student is sitting quietly and independently accessing their phone. Some students prefer to take notes on their laptop during class but research has found that note-taking by hand can lead to better recall than note-taking by typing.

Arguments For Allowing Personal Devices in the Classroom

Those who are open to the use of technology in the classroom also make some valid points. The first is that some students use their device to accommodate for special needs and requiring them to ask for permission to use it in class is an invasion of their privacy and singles them out from the other students. The second reason listed by Kamenetz (2018) is that personal devices can be used as a tool during class to look up difficult terms, participate in live polls, and work collaboratively on a project. For some students, their phone may be the most powerful computer they have access to. The third reason for allowing phones in the classroom is for emergency notifications from campus security - it is essential for those messages to be received immediately.

Regardless of your personal stance on allowing mobile devices in the classroom, the reality is that students do not want to put their devices away during class. Kamenetz (2018) suggested that faculty "fight technology with technology". 

Suggestions for "fighting technology with technology"

Kamenetz (2018) suggested the use of phone apps like Flipd that can be used to set a timer that locks out all of the phone's functions except for basic texts and phone calls. This provides a way for students to eliminate the distractions that come from push notifications from Facebook, Instagram, and other apps while still being able to receive emergency information. Some faculty are offering their students extra credit for installing the app and using it during class.

One of the hottest trends in teaching with technology is turning wi-fi ready, used smartphones into handheld computers. Secondary schools are taking donations of used phones and removing all apps except for ones that are useful in the classroom for video capture, imagery capture, and immersive virtual reality activities. See the article, "Virtual Reality Gives Cellphones a New Purpose in the Classroom" for more information on that trend. Students in higher education could be encouraged to use their personal device for these same type of activities.


With a little forward thinking and creativity, faculty in higher education can meet their students where they are at and provide positive opportunities for them to pull out and use their mobile devices. With that mindset, students will not only use their phones, tablets, and laptops to consume content, but to create it as well (Kamenetz, 2018).


Kamenetz, A. (2018, Jan 25). Laptops and phones in the classroom: Yea, nay or a third way? KQED Live.

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