I constantly struggle to devise effective classroom policies for smartphones. I used to make students sing or dance if their phones interrupted class, and although this led to some memorable moments, it also turned inappropriate tech use into a joke. Given the myriad deleterious effects of phones – addiction, decline of face-to-face socialisation, deskilling, and endless distraction, for starters – I want students to think carefully about their phone habits, rather than to mindlessly follow (or not follow) a rule.
I asked them whether they’d ever implant their phones in their bodies (as predicted by industry leaders at the Davos World Economic Forum in 2016) and here’s what they said:
- 7 per cent: Yes! The closer I can be to my phone, the better
- 7 per cent: Yes – it’s inevitable, so I might as well
- 7 per cent: Depends on the cost
- 11 per cent: Depends on how many other people are doing it
- 36 per cent: Depends on the physical risks
- 32 per cent: No way
Two-thirds of my students would at least consider making their phones part of their bodies, which would mean accepting all the consequences of screens, instant gratification and information-dependency.
Renstrom's experience is described below:
After reading my Aeon essay ... a representative from a San Francisco startup called YONDR contacted me. YONDR makes special pouches that keep audiences from using their phones at shows. You silence your phone, slide it into the pouch, and lock it at the top. After the performance, or if access is necessary before then, you can unlock the case in the lobby by touching the lock to a metal base, similar to anti-theft tags on clothing. Performers such as Dave Chappelle and Alicia Keys have used YONDR – whose motto is ‘Be here now’ – to curtail unsanctioned recordings and, when they look into the crowd, they see faces, not phones. The approach seems less draconian than forcing people to part with their tech, as separation anxiety defeats the goal of increased engagement.
YONDR sent me pouches to use in class. At the start of the winter semester, I introduced my students to the routine: before each class, they’d silence their phones, get a pouch from the box, and lock their phones in. Before leaving, they’d unlock the case and put it back in the box. During class, I didn’t care if they put the pouches on the desk, in their pockets, or if they clutched them tight. I told them this was an experiment for an eventual article, and that I wanted their honest opinions, which I’d collect via surveys at the beginning and end of the semester.