In the coming semester, I will be teaching a "seminar" type course with around 30 students. I would like to disallow students in the course to use any electronic devices (smartphones, tablets and laptops)?
- Is banning electronic devices in my course a good idea?
- How do I enforce such a rule?
In the coming semester, I will be teaching a "seminar" type course. The course is fairly small, with fewer than 30 students. We will spend most of the time in the course listening to students presenting their ideas, and the students critiquing and giving feedback on other students' presentations.
I have had a few years of experience teaching large lecture courses with more than 100 students per lecture. In these courses, many of the students prefer to type their notes on my Powerpoint slides, rather than writing on a physical copy of the lecture notes. Unfortunately, as I walk around the classroom, I invariably notice that a significant proportion of the students are distracted during the class by their electronic devices, e.g., checking their Facebook, Instagram or playing games. (I would estimate about 20% of students are distracted at any given point of time.)
I have noticed that I work better without electronic devices because I am less distracted and can focus better. Consequently, I would hope to minimize the distractions faced by students by disallowing students in the course to use any electronic devices.
Why do I want to ban electronic devices from the course?
The main goal of the course is to teach students how to analyze and present business case studies. The course is not one that is heavy on facts or memorization. Instead, students need to use their powers of observation to follow along presentations by their fellow students, and to evaluate their presentation style, body language and slide design.
Consequently, for this type of course, I do not see that electronic devices add any value. In fact, there are many research studies which suggest that electronic devices negatively affect students' learning. For example, an article in Psychology Today writes the following:
Cognitive capacity and overall brain power are significantly reduced when your smartphone is within glancing distance—even if it’s turned off and face down—according to a recent study. This new report from the University of Texas at Austin, “Brain Drain: The Mere Presence of One’s Own Smartphone Reduces Available Cognitive Capacity” was published in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research.
During this study, the UT Austin researchers found that someone’s ability to hold and process data significantly improved if his or her smartphone was in another room while taking a test to gauge attentional control and cognitive processes. Participants who kept their phones in a pocket or bag also outperformed those who kept their phones on the desk while taking the same test. Again, even if the phone was turned off and face down on the desk, the mere sight of one's own smartphone seemed to induce “brain drain” by depleting finite cognitive resources.