Why You Should Keep Your Ringer On and Call Your Mother in the BYOD Classroom
Posted on September 7, 2013
Societal norms dictate that we should turn off our cellphones in movie theatres, concerts, meetings, and hot dates. That makes sense in many cases as a ringer becomes a disruptive, if not disrespectful, force in those situations. I want to tell you why, however, we should leave our ringers on in the classroom where learners bring their own devices (BYOD).
A big part having a successful BYOD classroom is the extent to which the teacher models positive use of his/her own device(s). If the lead learner demonstrates metacognitive use of a device, for example, by making notes, adding to a to-do list, taking photos, then it’s far more likely that others will follow such a lead. If the teacher does these things as though they are mundane, unspectacular activities, then it will normalize those behaviours.
What does this have to do with your device’s audible notifications? Well, one of the most useful aspects of mobile devices are the alerts we can set on them. Whether it’s for a reminder, an event, or a timer, ringers keep many otherwise disorganized individuals much more independent and self-regulated. If you establish a norm in the class that everyone creates or sets their ringers so that they are not jarring or obnoxious, there really should be no need to declare a ban on them.
Most students or teachers have likely been in a classroom or two where a ringer went off at an undesirable time. This happens in a room full of mini super computers. But what was the reaction? Did the teacher get completely thrown off their game? Or, worse yet, did this result in an angry, combative response, one which reminds everyone in the room that one little sound can easily incite a relatively entertaining scene for some bystanders? The successful BYOD classroom is allergic to overreactions to anything related to little machines that are, in the big picture, insignificant.
I’ll never forget one day last year when my phone started ringing in class. Actually, my ringer was on silent mode at the time, but I pulled it out of my pocket and noticed my mother’s name glaring at me. For some reason, I had a hunch (as we teachers sometimes do) that instead of sending the call to messages to voicemail with one press of a button, I should take the call right then and there. I turned to my class:
“Hey everyone, anyone want to listen to me talk to my mother?”
You should have seen their faces light up in delight, begging me to swipe to answer. I put the call on speaker.
What ensued was a group of 12-year-olds listening more carefully than your great aunt trying to hear the numbers being called at Bingo. They listened to me speak my obscene brand of loud Konglish (Korean/English) to my mother. The conversation was completely forgettable to me, but utterly mesmerizing to many of my students. I think it was one more moment where they got to see their teacher reveal his humanity. What’s more, I think my multicultural group of students could relate so strongly to that diasporian phone call.
After that day, my students begged me to make ‘Call Your Mom Day’ become a thing.
Have you thought about doing Call Your Parent/Guardian/Relative Day in your class? I promise you won’t regret it.
A little addendum:
I totally concur with EdTechSandyK in the comments of this post when she says that ringers going off left, right, and centre would be incredibly disruptive to some learners and lessons in the class. I don’t condone that in my class, and actually do expect students to turn their ringers off if they have personal devices. I further agree with Sandy that it’s important that we model delaying gratification, staying in the moment. However, it’s important to note that there is a very fine line in this notion of what constitutes being in the moment vs. responding to external calls for attention, especially in our classrooms which, although often enclosed by doors, are always on the cusp of some kind of disruption or another. At times, this debate can lead us down a path of digital dualism.
I was definitely trying to be provocative more than literal in my suggestion that we leave our ringers on, ultimately trying to promote a level headed and practical approach to what is often seen too simplistically as a disruption in the classroom.