Confession time: I surfed Facebook during undergraduate college classes. I checked my email, I looked at Reddit, and I fully opted out of what was happening in class for something shinier that came with a satisfying “ding!” notification. I’d say that was tough to get off my chest, but I’d be hard pressed to find someone, anyone, who wasn’t as equally distracted as I was during their academic career. I’m an educator caught in the seemingly never ending battle of classroom distractions, yet I have and still get caught in my own distractions during academic events.Though distractions do happen, I consistently opt in to the same events, consciously choosing not to multitask but to engage in what’s happening. As a rational adult, I’m able to prioritize what’s happening and what’s valuable over what’s distracting, and use my devices to engage and interact with what I’m learning.
Faculty are caught in the same battle of fighting for student attention over devices. Finding the balance of respecting their students’ maturity while still controlling the distractions in the room has forced many faculty to resort to one of the two schools of thought when it comes to device use in class: all, or nothing. Those who allow device use in class ultimately accept the inevitability of student distraction in class, citing those distractions as opportunities for students to make choices to “opt out” and suffer the consequences thereof. As it’s near impossible (and usually very demeaning) for one adult to ask another adult to put their phone away during class, many professors completely ban cellphone use in class rather than battle on a daily basis. The comment section in “Digital Distractions” displayed the battle faculty face and how most faculty operate in the “all or nothing” schools of thought of device use in class:
There is a sense of more control over student device use at the elementary and secondary level, often with set policies and guidelines in place for device use. Former high school teacher and current higher education Educational Technologist Lauren Nicandri stated, “I had no problem with asking student to close their devices so I could speak- it never crossed my mind, nor their minds, to refuse to put things away after being allowed to use them.” While those students are younger and in a more controlled secondary classroom setting, designating appropriate times to use devices in class requires minimal control. Devices are used for educational purposes, not completely banned, and there is mutual respect indicated when devices are encouraged to be used and put away depending on current class activities.
In “Why Clay Shirky Banned Laptops, Tablets and Phones from His Classroom” Professor Clay Shirky introduces Jonathan Haidt’s elephant and rider metaphor, where the rider is the intellect and wants control, while the elephant is impulsive and emotional, often overruling the rider.
He compares his students and their focus as the elephant and the rider, and he outlines his transition from battling with student device use to partnering with students to defend their focus:
Shifting from the “all or nothing” model of device use, he outlines how he includes students in the conversation around device use, and has taken more control over the use in his class by outline appropriate times to use devices in class. The device use is intentional, rather than an incidental part of everyday class time. This attitude more accurately fits the goals ISTE 3, which states:
By allowing devices, faculty are no longer limiting the digital tools and resources allowed in class, and can begin to expand their own use of these resources in class. Devices are not a distraction, but a tool. This does mean faculty will need to accept a certain level of distraction, which is ultimately respecting the adults in the classroom to make choices to opt in, instead of out. This shift cannot come without training and collaboration from Educational Technologists and other colleagues. In “Teachers Still Struggling to Use Tech to Transform Instruction, Survey Finds,” educators were willing to use new digital tools and resources, including devices, but struggled with the lack of long-term support and training needed to sustain a use model that me their classrooms’ needs. This article and issue helped inspire the training I will offer for my Individual Project, which centers on using devices to make lectures more interactive (and to encourage faculty to limit, not ban, device use in class).
Rebora, A. (2016, June 6). Teachers Still Struggling to Use Tech to Transform Instruction, Survey Finds. Retrieved July 22, 2016, from http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2016/06/09/teachers-still-struggling-to-use-tech-to.html?tkn=SUNF3xA1W22FFtjNlbjUg5JOX4Y8vP7i4W5T
Shirky, C. (2014, September 15). Why Clay Shirky Banned Laptops, Tablets and Phones from His Classroom – MediaShift. Retrieved July 22, 2016, from http://mediashift.org/2014/09/why-clay-shirky-banned-laptops-tablets-and-phones-from-his-classroom/
Straumsheim, C. (2016, January 26). Study: Use of devices in class for nonclass purposes on the rise. Retrieved July 22, 2016, from https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/01/26/study-use-devices-class-nonclass-purposes-rise