For Isaac Sweeney, an assistant professor of English at Richard Bland College in Virginia, a simple revision of his syllabus proved to illustrate an important change of direction for his classroom. The change from having two separate policies about cellphones and e-mail, to just having one “Technology” policy, showed an acceptance and honesty about how his classroom, similar to many classrooms around the country, needs to “catch up” to the present trend in education: technology as an educational tool in the classroom.
Writing for The Chronicle of Higher Education, Sweeney talks about his firsthand experience letting students use their cellphones for class activities. Even though this may seem like blasphemy, the change in policy allows students to be empowered to use their cellphones as a tool for their own learning.
Cellphones can actually be useful.
A student, though unprepared when not having a printout of the class reading available when they get to class, can instantly catch up by accessing the online version through their smart phone. Not having a planner available to write down important assignments and projects is no longer an issue when a student’s cell phone has a calendar where they can add important due dates. Their cellphone can even alert them when assignments need to be turned in.
Though many, including Sweeney, have accepted the fact that this cellphone policy can and will be abused by students who will use their devices for gaming and other inappropriate intentions, preventing a student from checking current events related to a discussion, or keeping a student from accessing important class documents through their cellphone would be more harmful to the student’s learning than being distracted by a video game.
Cellphones in classrooms have long been looked down upon as distractions to the general flow of classroom activities. But Sweeney’s brave, forward-thinking decision to change his policies in his syllabus has marked a subtle, yet very important change in education. Instead of taking away valuable tools that can otherwise be used to enhance the learning experience for students and empower them with already familiar tools, embrace and look forward to what technology can make better, and do more, for education.