Mobile Device Policy (revised January 23, 2012)
Andrew F. Wood

You may use mobile devices (phones, laptops, etc.) in my class in a responsible manner as long as you follow basic social and ethical guidelines.

To explain those guidelines, let me first explain why I created a mobile device policy at all. Like it or not, virtually all students bring electronic gadgets to class. And why not? You want to stay connected to friends and family, and sometimes important news just can't wait until the end of class. Moreover, these devices aren't toys; they're tools.

Today's mobile devices enable you to check notes, update your calendar, or perhaps get a second opinion on assertions I may offer. Additionally, mobile devices play an essential role in our university's emergency notification network. Therefore, you may access your phones, laptops, and other electronic tools in class.

That being said, there are four obvious exceptions to this policy, related to testing, presentation, distribution, and distraction. In these cases I must adopt a hard line.

1. You may not use any mobile device while any student is taking a quiz or test in the classroom. Restricting the use of mobile devices in a testing environment is a matter of integrity, both practical and perceptual. And I would be well within my rights to interpret any such usage (without my express permission) as a sign of cheating.

2. You may not use any mobile device while any student (including yourself) is delivering a presentation. While there may be justifiable reasons to do so (eg., looking up an unfamiliar word) the potential perception of audience disengagement exceeds any temporary benefit produced by multitasking.

3. You may not use any mobile device to record sound or images in class for the purposes of distribution without my consent. Why? Let me explain: My lectures and other classroom activities are my intellectual property. And while I recognize that student fees help pay for the costs of this room (and for my services) I maintain my right to create and distribute classroom content as I see fit. Generally I have no problem with you snapping a photo of a slide or recording a lecture for your sole personal use. But you are not permitted to distribute any images or sounds from my classroom to any other person or publicly accessible storage device without my permission.

4. You may not use any mobile device in a distracting manner. If your use of a mobile device disturbs other folks (especially with ringtones or loud buzzing) - or if attention paid to your device means that you cannot participate meaningfully in our conversations - you may be required to leave the class.

That regrettable action may seem harsh. But ultimately it's a matter of respect. You deserve my full attention in the classroom; I ask for a reasonable portion of the same. If you want to send a quick text or perform a brief web search, feel free. Just be discrete. If you need a gentle reminder about this policy, I'll provide one. Thereafter my approach must become much more strict.

After all, our classroom is a community. What we do and say here matters. There's an anxious, busy world beyond our walls, I know. But that world can wait, at least for the brief time we share together. And when it can't, you can always quietly step outside. I merely ask you to remember that this class - indeed, your decision to seek a degree - is ultimately your choice. And with that choice comes certain responsibilities. One of them: contributing to a respectful and mutually advantageous learning environment.

Questions? Concerns? Recommendations? Let me know.