ShareThis Page

Professor incorporates use of cell phones as classroom tool

| Saturday, July 30, 2011

If you Google "texting in class," you can dive into a debate that has vexed college professors for a decade: What to do about students who pay more attention to text messages than to the instructor?

Although there are few college-wide policies, many professors explicitly forbid texting in class. Some even list grade-reduction penalties for violators.

But last year, Teresa Shellenbarger, a nursing and allied health professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, decided to try something different.

"I just got tired of fighting them. I figured if I can't beat them, why not join them• Why not use cell phone technology in class?" she said.

"I use texting to poll the class. I post a question for them to see and they text their answers that I post on a PowerPoint for the class to see. And sometimes when we're working on a controversial topic where students don't really want to own a response, I have them phone a friend and get an anonymous opinion to post," Shellenbarger said.

"A class can be mediocre and dull, and when I tell students to get out their phones and text to a question, the energy level just goes up," she said.

Joe Grabowski, an organic chemistry professor at the University of Pittsburgh, was not surprised.

"I'm starting to hear more stories about people saying, 'All of these students have smartphones and how can we use this technology for learning?' Someone even suggested we have them film labs and then grade students on lab techniques," he said.

Although Grabowski can see the potential the technology holds, he's a little skeptical.

"Two years ago, I had several students as an advisory board for a class of about 150 students. They suggested I let students text questions they were too embarrassed to ask. We gave out the board members' cell numbers to everyone in class. You know how many questions they got?

"None," he said.

He said students have become increasingly savvy about putting their phones on vibrate.

"If they're using them in class, they're doing it unobtrusively," he said. "The problem is more with adults at meetings. They'll leave ringers on and answer a call in the middle of a meeting."

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.