• Rich Barlow

    Senior Writer

    Rich Barlow

    Rich Barlow is a senior writer at BU Today and Bostonia magazine. Perhaps the only native of Trenton, N.J., who will volunteer his birthplace without police interrogation, he graduated from Dartmouth College, spent 20 years as a small-town newspaper reporter, and is a former Boston Globe religion columnist, book reviewer, and occasional op-ed contributor. Profile

Comments & Discussion

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There are 10 comments on Surviving Class minus Your Cell Phone

  1. Bravo. All professors should try this. For over a decade I’ve taught a course at the School of Public Health on “Leadinf for Results”. In which I ask students to put away all electronics, including laptops.

    Result: real conversation/Dialogue occurs in every class and students report that they look forward to coming to class. Many have formed lasting friendships. We have a great deal of laughter and insight when we are all fully engaged in the same conversation. They take reflection notes on paper. I can not recommend this approach highly enough. Try it! You might really enjoy it.

  2. When I taught at another university: I had a policy that if a cell phone rang while inside class that the student was dismissed from the class. If it happened twice, the student was barred from class for the rest of the semester.
    The university was receptive to the policy.

    Cell phones has options (vibrate).

    1. Good policy! Over time I’ve leaned toward trying to avoid stopping class to deal with a disruptive phone/student. Disciplining a student while you’re trying to teach or interrupting the class to deal with someone’s phone can be tough, especially if the student protests. I find that the pouches preempt that kind of situation and allow for a more seamless classroom experience overall. But this isn’t a one size fits all situation and I’m glad you found something that works for you!

  3. Bravo to this instructor and a qualified bravo to the coverage. This should start a much broader conversation at BU where we don’t necessarily need policies as much as a wider conversation. If one looks at the books by Nicholas Carr, it seems like society has caught on to this issue and is ahead of the ivory tower. Perhaps we can start by asking how Joelle Renstrom’s policy helps prepare students for the workforce and further study; the immediate benefit to her class should be just one aspect of her policy.

  4. While I realize banning cellphones for some is de rigueur, there are just as many studies out there that show there are benefits to certain phone-based technologies in the classroom, when well-regulated. Instructors are free to make their own decisions based on what they feel is right for them and their students, but caution must be taken not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

  5. I ban all electronic devices in my classes. Probably b/c I don’t react harshly or impose penalties, at least 1 student must be asked to put theirs away each class. I just ask quietly & politely, sometimes wittily, but avoid getting emotionally involved in the matter. Students take better notes writing by hand & remember more. Yes, there are in-class uses for phones, but it’s too much trouble regulating use — too many non-educational temptations!

  6. In my classes in a Korean university, I used a system where students voluntarily turned off their phones, put them in a plastic bin, and passed me a ticket with their name on it. At the beginning, I explained the voluminous research in favor of doing this. They got a few points extra credit for consistently abiding by the policy. As a result, I saw much more engaged students, and many of them thanked me at the end of the semester. Now I’m at an American university, and considering trying it here.

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