If what we are hearing in the CER is any indication, student use of laptops (and increasingly, tablets and smartphones) in the classroom for non-academic purposes has become a widespread problem at Homewood. Faculty we have talked to have done everything from banning all computer use in their classes (potentially a problem for students with disabilities) to having TAs roam the lecture hall to discourage inappropriate web surfing. Are there better solutions?
One option is to have a clear statement of policy about mobile device use in your course syllabus. This combined with a discussion of “digital etiquette” during the first class meeting can be an effective solution. Even better, consider creating a contract with your students at the beginning of the semester. The contract is a two-way street. By engaging your students in the process, you increase the likelihood of their compliance. The scope of your contract may go beyond the use of mobile devices and should include your obligations as a professor as well as your expectations of student behavior. For a more in detailed discussion of this method see the CER’s Innovative Instructor article Creating a Convenant with Your Students by JHU Professor P. M. Forni. An alternative option might be to encourage students to use their mobile devices to record class information – see a posting by Stanford faculty member Rick Reis from his Tomorrow’s Professor mailing list.
Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources