Mobile phones in lectures and seminars

I’m trying something new with my current teaching group, allowing mobile phones to be on (but on silent or vibrate) in the classroom, and for them to be used to reply to text messages.

So far, the experiment has been a success.  Whilst a few students have read and responded to texts whilst I’m been pontificating, there’s been a lot less distubance than I had thought.  During a ‘breakout’ or exercise there may be a little bit more of a scramble to pockets to see if they have received a message or missed call, but nothing like the chaos and mayhem which I myself predicted.

I started to think why we feel the need to ban mobile phones in the classroom?  Are there sound pedagogical reasons, or simply a lecturer’s knee-jerk reaction to control something in the classroom?

A problem I can see could be one of  ‘mixed messages’, and some academic staff may be much less happy about their classes being disturbed.   I’m not sure how to overcome this, unless on a course by course (rather than module, or an individual)  basis.

Of course exams are a different matter, though students seem sensible and in the mock exam I’m invigilating at the moment there has been no problems with students using phones.

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