Why I do not allow cell phones or regular laptops in class

I do not allow cell phones and regular laptops in my class – it is considered academic disruption. If someone is expecting an important call, I ask them to let me know and sit in chairs close to the classroom exit door. Very few people take me on that offer over a semester even in a class of 109. “Loved ones including mine should call 911 in case of an emergency – the emergency response team will be there faster than we can.”

I do allow flat laptops and tablets only if they are used to take notes with a stylus. They cannot claim that they want to type notes as that is virtually impossible to do in an engineering course full of equations and sketches. Anyway, taking notes by hand is cognitively better than typing anyway.

About those of you who keep mentioning personal responsibility and that it is an ego trip for the instructor, how many studies do I need to show you about negative effects of multitasking and working memory when one is learning something new.

About personal responsibility, it is more than that – the cell phone distracts others and there are studies on that too.  And removing temptation is much better than self-control.

About those who say, be more interesting than the incoming text – I cannot compete, as learning something new is hard and looking at a “Facebook like” is an immediate high. My lecture is anticipated if I am doing a good job of constructing knowledge but a text is a Pavlov’s bell.


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