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How do I stop cell phone use in the college classroom? Answered

Assume that I cannot confiscate them, and that I have already asked in polite ways. I have also tried logic (cell phones rot your brain) and religion (have damned them to Hell, etc.). Many thanks in advance!?


My philosophy professor had an interesting policy. He told us that if a phone rang in his class, he would answer it in front of everyone. If he caught you texting he would stop in the middle of the lecture and tell you not to show up again if you'd rather be texting. Cellphone usage dropped by 99%. One time a phone rang, which he answered, and it turned out to be an actual emergency. He was fine about it and let the student take the call.

During Chem exams we were not allowed to bring ANYTHING aside from a calculator and pens. If you insisted on a bag, it had to be left at the door. If they even suspected you had a phone on you, you'd fail the exam automatically.


Read it and weep lawbreakers !


6 years ago

I love the foil solution! You could also build a chicken wire cage (Faraday cage) around the seats. Screw these selfish people!

"Students, if your phone rings or otherwise signals during class, that is an interruption. Of course everyone in the class wants all the education that he/she paid for, and I wish to insure that you do get that education. To deal with interruptions, class time shall be extended by two minutes for each interruption."

Also, place something like the following in the syllabus (which is often a legal document!):

Any student who, during an examination or quiz, is found *in possession* of a wireless transmitting/receiving/recording device shall be assumed to possess said device(s) for the purpose of academic dishonesty, and shall receive a zero on the examination or quiz in question. Said devices include but are not limited to: cellular telephones; computers; GPS devices; electronic recorders; MP3 players; PDAs and similar devices. (MP3 players can be used to play useful information during the exam...)

Students who bring a device to an exam are to place those devices on the front desk during an exam.

Be prepared to do exactly as you say, else the approach is more or less useless.

Hope this helps, it works pretty well for me -- Prfesser

Thanks for the detailed response. As a professor I have of course done all these things except the interesting idea of extending class time 2 minutes per interruption (a creative idea). The big problem is the students silently leaving the room not for pee-break but to check for calls or to answer a silent buzz (though I can usually hear the shaking phones). These are often the students who ask later -- "What did you assign...?" I cannot always in these cases differentiate pee-breaks from phone dissertions without following them from the classroom ;-) Once in a men's room I did witness a student (not my own) making a cell phone call to cheat -- sort of like those game shows when you can call a life-line, I guess!). I do have a hard time stopping them from putting phones on desk or lap to watch for text messages. It is all in my syllabus and orally explained too, but their habit is too strong and partly reinforced by a few faculty with cell phone habits just as bad (go to a staff meeting and see student-like behaviors! (but I like your idea of F on quiz/exam when I catch a cell phone on desk -- that is easily enforcible). I am starting to think that the legal/ethical issues of short-range cell phone jamming does not outweigh the problem in the classroom.

I tell my students that while other teachers may run their classrooms differently, they are in my classroom now and these are my policies. Just like having a different manager, they must learn to differentiate between situations.

I hope you busted the kid that was cheating by phone, BTW.

To address students who leave during the class... some profs lock the classroom door when class starts, and no one is allowed in after that. Keeps students from dragging in late too, that's one of my pet peeves.

A colleague bases part of the grade on "Participation", and takes 10% off that grade if a cell phone is seen or heard.

Another colleague grabbed a phone from a student who was talking about what to have for dinner, and threw it hard against the wall. He got in some trouble but *never* had a cell phone problem after that. Such an incident might be staged secretly with a student who hates phones as much as you do. Some do.

Good luck!

My girlfriend had a professor who would simply demand the student stand up and read the content of the text message aloud to the class, and then explain the conversation to which it pertained. His usual line was "Since your text message is clearly more important than the lesson I am trying to teach, why don't you share it with us, so that we can all benefit from it's information."  After the first embarrassing text that gets read, the cell usage drops dramatically. Using a short range cell jammer during exams is not unreasonable. In my opinion a professor has a duty to do everything in his/her power to prevent cheating on an exam.

I happen to be a college student who likes texting, but my teachers have made it clear that it wont be tolerated: On the first day of class, one of my teachers emphasizes how rude it is to be texting while she is teaching, and she has no tolerance for it whatsoever. She says that if anyone is caught texting in her class (and she WILL notice) they will be asked to leave the class. How embarrassing! I haven't seen anyone text in her class. You could always make it clear that you do not approve of texting, but let the students know that whatever material they miss while they were texting is their loss and you will not repeat anything to someone you've caught texting. And let them know this! If they do not want to listen to you once, why should you repeat yourself? You can also remind them that if they do not like your rules, then they do not have to show up to class. It's one less student you have to grade. Harsh but...it's the truth. I had one sassy English teacher who was not afraid to embarrass you about anything! If you came in late she had a great comment, if you walked in front of her during lecture she had a great comment as well. And this applied to cellphones. If someone was caught texting, she made them stand in front of the classroom and either a) teach the class because since they weren't paying attention, they must know the material already, or b) announce what was more important with their phone than the lecture. Again, they could leave if their texts messages were more important. My marketing teacher one semester was the most lenient man, except when it came to cellphones. He instructed the students not to text, but they could keep their phones on if they wished as long as they were set to silent. Because, he could understand there are emergencies that can occur, so keep them on silent and if it so happened that they NEEDED to answer a call, that they should excuse themselves silently and take the call outside of the classroom. HOWEVER, if a cell phone rang in class, the teacher announced that he would answer the call himself. He's talked to parents, siblings, bosses, etc., but he said it didn't matter. He instructed everyone to have their phone on silent. Likewise, if his cellphone rang, a student was allowed to answer it because he should have known better as well. And he said that a student did answer his phone once and talked to his wife. :) I'd say these are the most effective ways. Logic and especially religion wont work because not everyone has the same beliefs. Just get down on their level, and don't be afraid to embarrass them. If you've made it clear that cell phone use is not to be going on in their classroom, if you publicly humiliate them it's all their fault, and there's nothing they can do about it. Again, if they don't like it, they don't have to come to your class. It's one less student that you have to grade. Enough said. Good luck!

buy a cell phone jammer!!! ha ha ha ha! They can get expensive though, but it is ultimatley worth it when you see kids look down (as in texting etc) and then look very suprised. it's hilarious.

collect them in a box at the door.

> If you are in charge of the students' education, you don't just have the right, but the responsibility to remove any and all "obstacles to learning". - Kiteman
. That pretty well sums it up. It's your classroom and you have an obligation to provide an environment that is conducive to learning for all your students.
. As for students leaving for bathroom breaks. Unless there is a medical problem, put a stop to it. Students should advise you before class if there is a problem.

Some rail carriages are rendered mobile-free by covering the windows in a transparent metallic foil. If you have the authority (are you staff?), you could "paper" your room in aluminium foil. I believe you can also get plasterboard with an insulating layer that just happens to be made of foil. Failing that, just discipline pupils. Even if mobiles are not actually banned by the college, there should be something in the rules or behaviour policy along the lines of pupils not being allowed to disrupt learning or teaching. I heard of one UK school that allowed mobiles in school (to save the trouble of finding them in 200 school bags), but levied a £5 fine on any phone that rang during a lesson. If you are not staff, but a student, and you find that the use of phones is hampering your learning, then I suggest a written letter of complaint to the college's governing body.

I'm staff, but wall papering all the rooms I teach (or even one) is out of the question. Would make a good comedy movie subplot though! The college "frowns on" cell phone use in the classroom but so far will not or cannot legally ban them.

If you are in charge of the students' education, you don't just have the right, but the responsibility to remove any and all "obstacles to learning".

You can make it clear to parents and students at the start of the year (I would suggest a letter addressed to and mailed to the parents) along the lines of;

"... whilst I appreciate the desire of students to remain in contact with friends and family, I also recognise the need for your children to receive an education, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

"To this end, can I remind all parents and students that mobile communication and music devices must not be switched on during lessons: at best, they are an annoying distraction, at worst they have been used to cheat on formal assessment tasks.

"If students are unable or refuse to comply with this requirement, then their phones will be confiscated, to be collected by a parent at their convenience. If students refuse to cooperate with this, then they shall be asked to leave the class, pending a meeting between myself and parents.

"Thankyou for your support with your child's successful education.

At my wife's school, phones used in class time are confiscated and passed on to a senior member of staff. That member of staff only returns the phones to parents, and only informs the parents about the confiscation by post, sending the letters second class, which means that any student who uses a phone in lessons loses that phone for a week or so, longer if the parents cannot easily get to school to collect the phone.

Cel phone jammers ARE available, and are ethically questionable on a number of levels - but if you're stuck they are known to work. They range from a few meters to a hundred meters - for anywhere from 30 dollars to 300.

example: http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.18757

I recommend ONLY ONLY ONLY for extremely important times like exams. Imagine you had a heart attack, and nobody could call 911.

If you have surrounded yourself with people who can't find a land line, perhaps Darwinian selection IS the best thing : )

At my last college, there was no PA, and no landlines in half the rooms - less interruption.

Mine as well, but I assumed they were to cheap to put them in : )

and you need a switchboard operator then as well.

. I'm surprised that the school allows phones to be turned on during class. Maybe mentioning to the professor that the phones are distracting you will do some good.

heh - I had assumed that the author was the instructor/professor...

. After re-reading the OP, I'd say that that is not an unreasonable conclusion. I would hope that an instructor would have more control over the classroom than is indicated, but you never know nowadays.

I would hope an instructor wasn't telling people that cell phones rot your brain or excommunicating students...

. LOL Good point, but I dunno. My HS Biology teacher told us "Evolution is in the book if you want to read it, but it's not true and it won't be on any tests." =O
. But that was over 35 years ago. :)