How do teachers feel about cell phones in the classroom?

It’s a non-issue. I’m a college professor. There is a statement on my syllabus that says that if your cellphone goes off in class, or if you make a call in the classroom, you are required to dance in front of the class. I tend to use the Macarena, or Double Dream Hands, or Cha Cha Bitch. I tell the students that courts have upheld college syllabi as legal documents, so if they violate the phone policy and don’t dance then I can withhold their grade at the end of the semester.

I’ve had students tell me that they don’t know how to do those dances. I say that’s fine, I have instructional videos. I’ll put one on and then we’ll all watch you try to follow along.

Most students are so terrified of having to dance in front of the class that their cellphones never go off in my classroom. Other instructors have huge signs on the syllabus or even on the wall that say things like ALL CELLPHONES MUST BE TURNED OFF! But phones go off in their classrooms all the time anyway. I actually encourage students to leave their cellphones on. I tell them that I love to watch people dance. Unfortunately it never seems to happen. When I make this announcement on the first day of class I’m chagrined to watch as students take out their cellphones en masse and immediately put them into airplane mode.

Every once in a while I get the extrovert who likes to dance and leaves their cellphone on intentionally. This is fine with me, since typically they’re good dancers and it’s a treat for me and the class to get to watch them.

As far as other cellphone use goes I don’t really care. I use my cellphone regularly in class. If someone asks me a question that I can’t answer, and I think it’s a good question, I shout “Hey Siri!” and my phone immediately asks me what I want. I encourage other students to Google the answer as well. We all usually learn a lot from these occasions.

If students are using their cellphones to text or use FB or Instagram or whatever then that’s also fine with me. They generally don’t make it past the first or second exam, and then I have fewer papers to grade.


Never expected 6000 upvotes for this answer, since most of my other answers get 2 or 3 at most.

Seems as though some people are concerned about the welfare of my students, wondering what would happen if they have emergencies. Remember, I don’t require students to turn their phones off, I actually encourage them to leave them on so we can watch them dance. Most of them turn their ringers off so they don’t have to dance, but they can still see when someone calls or texts them. Remember too that I encourage my students to use their cell phones in class to search the internet for some of the questions we get that I can’t answer. Pretty much all of the cell phones in my classroom are always on, they just have the ringers turned off.

I always leave my phone on, and it’s at the instructor’s table at the front of the classroom where I can see it. Our college has an emergency text system for any campus crisis, so I will get that the moment it happens. I also inform my students whenever I get an Amber Alert or a severe weather warning or anything similar. But most of them see those too, since they leave their cell phones on.

From some of the comments on this answer it also seems that people think I’m some sort of austere hardass. Maybe I am, but I don’t think so. It’s difficult on Quora when all you see is the text, you can’t see my facial expressions or hear my tone of voice. I teach very difficult classes, and I have firm policies, but I try to keep a light atmosphere in the classroom. Students seem to catch on fairly quickly that my classes are hard as hell, and that they can’t break my rules, but we still have a lot of fun. Here are a couple of other excerpts from my syllabus, maybe this will help convey what my classes are actually like:

“Assignments may also be submitted by email or text, and must be turned in or submitted by the beginning of class. Late assignments will not be accepted for any reason. Make sure to turn in the hard copy later if emailing or texting the assignment.

Quizzes will generally be based on material recently covered in class, and will be given without warning. They will be given during the first 10 minutes of class, and there are no make up quizzes for any reason.

For most lab periods, students will be divided into groups to work together on identifying items on charts and models, and 5 points are awarded to those who complete the lab. Students are allowed to drop one 15 point quiz, one 5 point worksheet, and one 5 point lab exercise, which should be more than sufficient to cover all flat tires, broken alarm clocks, 247-car train crossings, emergency appendectomies, Nobel Prize acceptance speeches, alien abductions, etc.

For a variety of reasons no make-up exams or lab practicals will be administered. In extraordinary circumstances it may be possible to take an early exam or practical. If a student is physically unable to attend an exam, other arrangements will be made. Be prepared to supply documentation in the form of medical records, police reports, CIA dossiers, irrefutable evidence of alien abduction, and so on.

Every attempt to follow the procedures and schedules described in this syllabus will be made, but they may be changed in the event of Ebola epidemic, collision with an asteroid, alien invasion, zombie apocalypse, resurrection of Tupac, or other extenuating circumstances. Students will be notified of those changes in class and/or by email, assuming any of us are still here.”

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