Why I do not allow cell phones or regular laptops in class

I do not allow cell phones and regular laptops in my class – it is considered academic disruption. If someone is expecting an important call, I ask them to let me know and sit in chairs close to the classroom exit door. Very few people take me on that offer over a semester even in a class of 109. “Loved ones including mine should call 911 in case of an emergency – the emergency response team will be there faster than we can.”

I do allow flat laptops and tablets only if they are used to take notes with a stylus. They cannot claim that they want to type notes as that is virtually impossible to do in an engineering course full of equations and sketches. Anyway, taking notes by hand is cognitively better than typing anyway.

About those of you who keep mentioning personal responsibility and that it is an ego trip for the instructor, how many studies do I need to show you about negative effects of multitasking and working memory when one is learning something new.

About personal responsibility, it is more than that – the cell phone distracts others and there are studies on that too.  And removing temptation is much better than self-control.

About those who say, be more interesting than the incoming text – I cannot compete, as learning something new is hard and looking at a “Facebook like” is an immediate high. My lecture is anticipated if I am doing a good job of constructing knowledge but a text is a Pavlov’s bell.


This post is brought to you by

Author: Autar Kaw

Autar Kaw (http://autarkaw.com) is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of South Florida. He has been at USF since 1987, the same year in which he received his Ph. D. in Engineering Mechanics from Clemson University. He is a recipient of the 2012 U.S. Professor of the Year Award. With major funding from NSF, he is the principal and managing contributor in developing the multiple award-winning online open courseware for an undergraduate course in Numerical Methods. The OpenCourseWare (nm.MathForCollege.com) annually receives 1,000,000+ page views, 1,000,000+ views of the YouTube audiovisual lectures, and 150,000+ page views at the NumericalMethodsGuy blog. His current research interests include engineering education research methods, adaptive learning, open courseware, massive open online courses, flipped classrooms, and learning strategies. He has written four textbooks and 80 refereed technical papers, and his opinion editorials have appeared in the St. Petersburg Times and Tampa Tribune.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s