A ringing cell phone in class can be the last straw if you’re already having a rough day… and so we all have written a policy at one time or another to discourge cell phones from going off in class.

Here was my policy last year (and for the last few years): If a cell phone goes off in class, everyone will take a 10-point pop quiz… my choice of topics.

For the most part, this was a good policy, but there were nagging problems. For example, sometimes there would be a student that just couldn’t do it… they just couldn’t remember to turn the dang thing off. And so they would be the cause of quiz after quiz (while the classroom environment became a bit hostile for them). What if a student was absent on a day when another student caused a pop-quiz?

Well, recently we (husband and I) dumped our home phone land line for cell phones (long story there) and now I have a cell phone that can access the internet, open Word & Excel documents, take pictures, check email, etc. So, this semester I was a bit worried that now I would be the one with the ringing cell phone. So I removed my cell phone policy from the syllabus and now I am back to just glaring at a student if their phone rings in class.

Most of the time I play it safe by just not bringing my phone to class. However, yesterday, I had the phone so that I could deal with “access code” issues between two classes. Of course, I forgot to shut off the ringer and… lo and behold… it DID ring during the next class. At least I had had the foresight to download a cool song for my ringtone (Dirty Laundry, by Bitter:Sweet) so that I didn’t look like a total goober with one of those “standard rings” when it did go off!

Cell phones can be handy technology wise… here are some classroom possibilities if you haven’t thought of these yourself:

  • You’ve just written up a whole list of topics that will be on an exam… use your cell phone camera to take a picture of the list so that you have it when you write the exam.
  • You can never remember what you assigned for homework on the board… again, take a picture.
  • The technology in your classroom is not working. Call your IT or media services department from your cell phone to get immediate results… there’s nothing like saying…actually, I’m teaching this class RIGHT NOW and the computer/projector/whatever is NOT working.
  • You don’t have internet access in your classroom and suddenly you need some vital piece of information (how fast does a Boeing 747 fly?)… you could use your cell phone to access the internet and find out.
  • Take pictures of your students hard at work (group activities, tests, board work) using your cell phone camera and post them on your webpage.
  • Keep your calendar on google calendars and access it from anywhere you can get to a data network or the internet (like your phone).

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