In-Class Technology Policies
As students' access to digital devices grows increasingly ubiquitous, instructors need to make deliberate choices about how and why their students might use their laptops, cell phones, tablets, and other digital devices in the classroom.
Although technology policies have become a particularly popular feature in instructor syllabi as of late, it has long been a best practice to set guidelines with students about how they are expected to engage with and participate in the class. A technology policy simply gives instructors another way to talk about how they would like students to become part of the class community and conversation. Here's a quick checklist of questions to ask yourself as you develop a technology policy for your own class.
Questions to Ask Yourself as you Write a Class Technology Policy
How often am I asking my students to complete work in digital spaces?
Reflect on the extent to which you'll ask students to engage in digital activities. For example, will you ask them to write in class frequently? Will you ask them to read sources they'll find online? Will they write in discussion forum responses? Will they do reading annotation activities? The more activities you can think of that your students would experience digitally, the more that you may want to consider how and whether asking students to bring in and use their own devices would be appropriate.
How do I want my students to interact with each other?
Consider what activities you'll design where students will work together. Do you want them to collaborate only by talking? Do you want them to collaboratively write documents together? Do you want them to do active research in small groups? Think about the classroom environment you want to cultivate and the impact that including students' digital devices on that classroom environment might have.
How much freedom do I want to give my students to make their own choices about digital device use?
Some instructors have a very hands-off approach to how they want students to engage in class. Other instructors define the rules in their classroom spaces. Other instructors still work with their classes to come up with collaborative guidelines for how they'll use the space. Be mindful of what kind of instructor persona you want to cultivate and consider how your technology policy aligns with that persona.
Do I have students with disabilities in my class who will need to be on a digital device for their learning?
Consider who is in your class and what your students' needs are. It can feel alienating for the one student who needs a digital device for their learning to use their laptop while everyone else in the class is "banned" from using their own, for example.
Do I want to define how students will use laptops vs. cell phones vs. tablets?
Because students will bring a variety of different devices to class with them, you'll want to decide whether to develop separate policies for using these devices or whether you want your policy to be the same for the use of all devices.
What impact will it have on my classroom space to create limits on technology use?
Be mindful of how having a strict technology policy could impact your classroom environment. How would creating limits on use change the ways that students interact with you? With each other?
Resources for Further Exploration
There are many instructors who have written extensively about their technology policies. Check out some of their reflections to learn more about others' reasons for instituting particular kinds of policies:
- "How Concerned Should We Be About Cell Phones in Class?:" Maryellen Weimer (Faculty Focus)
- "Why I Just Asked My Students to Put their Laptop Away:" Clay Shirky (Medium)
- "Laptop Bans are a Terrible Idea:" Joshua Kim (Inside Higher Ed)
- "Why I'm Asking You Not to Use Your Laptops:" Anne Curzan (The Chronicle of Higher Education, ProfHacker)
- "No, Banning Laptops is Not the Answer:" James Lang (The Chronicle of Higher Education)
- "5 Reasons to Allow Digital Devices in Your Classroom:" Natascha Chtena (GradHacker)
- "What They Are Really Typing:" Steve Kolowich (Inside Higher Ed)
- "Laptops And Phones in the Classroom: Yea, Nay, or a Third Way?" Anya Kamenetz (NPR)