ASU Professor: Let's End The Classroom War On Mobile Devices

Published: Monday, August 15, 2016 - 5:15pm
Updated: Monday, August 15, 2016 - 5:38pm
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(Photo by Kathy Ritchie - KJZZ)

Smartphones are such a part of our everyday lives, it’s rare that many of us are ever without them. But, what does that mean for classrooms?

Not all that surprisingly, the way that college students approach smartphones in the classroom and the way that professors view them isn’t always in sync.

“There’s no consensus on what to do about mobile media,” according to Robert Shuter, research professor at the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication at Arizona State University. “Clearly, laptops, tablets, smartphones are in the hands of just about every student, certainly not all students, but many, many, many students. And they bring them into classrooms. And this becomes – can become – a real distraction for university instructors.”

Shuter and co-author author Pauline Hope Cheong recently completed two studies of university students and professors that revealed the large gap between students’ views of mobile media devices and those of their professors.

Students really like their smartphones, tablets and laptops, according to Shuter.

“They think that mobile media is not a big distraction to their attention, is not a big distraction to their participation in class, and doesn’t really impact negatively on their learning,” he said.

In fact, students said smartphones and tablets can actually assist them in their learning, Shuter said.

But, on the other hand, “professors, ultimately, don’t like these things in class, and they see them as a real disruption, and they can be!” he said.

Shuter said he and his co-author think this kind of technology has unique, important potential uses in the university classroom – if they are monitored properly.

“We think there has to be a change in terms of some of the negative mindsets about using them, having them used at all in their classrooms,” he said. “Many professors don’t want them in their classrooms at all, they’re banned from the classroom.”

These devices are so embedded in the current generation, he said, that’s not the best way to leverage them. In his own classroom, he said he has students use their smartphones or tablets to pull up articles they’re reading in class, discuss them in small groups, and then with the entire class.

“The bottom line is that, yes, the extent to which we begin to integrate … these devices in a positive way into class can really optimize not only the learning experience, but can endear you to the students themselves,” he said.

And, by using smartphones to make your class more interactive – even with smartphones – Shuter said you have a better chance of keeping your students attention.

“Without that interactive component, classrooms become very dull experiences.” he said. “And, in truth, that’s when students go for their smartphones under tables, as it were, and starts texting their friends, when they are incredibly bored!”

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