Classroom cell phone use policy making: of the people, by the people

Well, here it is! I’ve finished creating a set of lesson plans to be used in the most advanced class that the ESL Program where I teach offers. I’m looking forward to taking them on a test drive when I return to the classroom in the fall. Given that I had problems over the course of the semester that led me to very nearly drop this class, I just want to take a moment to celebrate that I got this far:

                                               Credit: Giphy

Here’s an overview of what I’ve come up with for my final project of ECI832:

For those of you who are new to this project, here’s where I started.  I was thinking about Ribble’s 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship, specifically what he says about Digital Communication, Digital Etiquette, Digital Rights and Responsibilities. I wrote more about the connection to these elements that I saw my project having in an earlier post. I decided I wanted to do something about the issues other ESL instructors and I have with inappropriate cell phone use in our classrooms.  Of course phones and other devices can be put to great use when built into a lesson, but let’s face it, they can be major distractions, and can take away from the learning environment and in person social connection that develops in an intensive ESL program like mine.

I started out reading several articles on the topic of cell phone use in classrooms, the impact of distractions on learning, and how cell phone policies imposed from the top down don’t work well.  I gave links and summaries of a few of those articles in two blog posts, the one mentioned above as well as a later post.

As mentioned in my previous blog about this project, my objectives for this set of lessons are to:

  • Get students thinking about the pros and cons of smart phone use during class time and class break times
  • Introduce vocabulary related to classroom smart phone use
  • Have students work together to propose a set of guidelines for their own classroom smart phone use
  • Have communicative, integrated-skill lessons that students find engaging

It turned out that I had a lot more I wanted to do with this topic than I could fit into one class, and so I’ve ended up with lesson plans for three separate days spread out over a week: Day One’s lesson is 1 hour and 50 minutes; Day Two’s lesson is 1 hour and 25 minutes; Day Three’s lesson is a brief 50 minutes.

Here are brief screen cast videos showing the PowerPoint file I created for use with these three lessons:

Day One:

(here’s the Nomophobia Questionnaire, in case anyone’s interested in taking it)

Day Two:

Day Three:

In case anyone is interested in using/modifying this idea in their classrooms, here are the lesson plans for the three days. Before I leave you with those, I’ll sign off with a reminder to feel free to comment on what you’ve seen here or contact me directly. I also want to thank my classmates and my prof, Dr. Alec Couros, for a great learning experience this semester. I feel more in touch with the 21st Century now that I did before taking this class, and I’ll also have several new considerations regarding media literacy and digital citizenship when I return to teaching in September.

Thanks for reading!



Day One’s Plan (1 hour and 50 minute lesson; 10-minute break after 55-minutes):

Slides 1-2 0 minutes Tell the class that you’d like to talk about cell phone use in the classroom, but to begin you’d like them to think about their cell phone habits in general.

Begin the PowerPoint presentation.

Slide 3 8 minutes Have students discuss the questions in small groups; elicit answers for whole class follow-up
Slide 4 2 minutes Introduce the vocab challenge

Divide the class into two teams: Team Phone and Team No Phone

Slide 5 5 minutes Show the words and say them each out loud once (students can repeat if they want)

Have students in Team Phone leave the room

20 minutes Students are working on the vocab challenge in teams
20 minutes Students from Team Phone return to the room.

Move desks to the sides of the room

Introduce and play the fly swatter game:

·         Have the 14 words written in large letters on the black/white board in advance

·         Have students in their teams line up down the centre of the room.

·         Hand the student first in line of each team a fly swatter

·         Loudly read out or act out a clue that indicates one of the words on the board.

·         The students holding the fly swatter need to consult their teams (if necessary) and then run up to the board to “swat” the word that corresponds to my clue.  The team member to swat the correct word first scores one point for her/his team.

Review each of the words, answering questions and eliciting sample sentences on request.

10-minute break
Slide 6 1 minutes Show the slide and say the word “nomophobia.” Ask students to guess what this word means.
Slide 7 2 minutes Show the slide and read the definition and sample sentence to the class.

Ask if anyone has heard of this term, or if they know of a similar term in English or in their language.

Slide 8 27 minutes Hand out the nomophobia questionnaire and ask students to fill it out.

Tell students to write a number from 1-7 beside each of the 20 questions, and then ask them to total up their scores.

Have them discuss the questions on Slide 8 with the student next to them.

Slide 9 5 minutes Have students think about the questions on Slide 9 for 1-2 minutes, and then have them share their answers with their partner.
Slides 10 and 11 10 minutes Go over Slide 10 with the students.  (Fill in the date on this slide in advance – the date when you’ll carry on to “Day Two” of this lesson).

Hand out the small pieces of paper for them to track the number of times they look at or use their phone during a 50-minute lesson.  Tell them to write a check mark for each time they look at their phone for an “on topic” (class related) reason, and an “x” each time they look at their phone for an “off topic” (not class related) reason.  (The teacher should distribute them at the start of a lesson and collect them at the end).

Show Slide 11 as an example of what we’ll do when we move on to Day Two.

Explain the homework assignment.

Thank them and dismiss for break/end of day.

Day Two’s Plan (1 hour 25-minute lesson):

Slide 12 0 minutes Introduce the topic of the lesson.
Slide 13 15 minutes Hand out their small papers with their tracking of their cell phone use. Give them a couple of minutes to calculate the average number of times they look at their phone for “on topic” and “off topic” reasons in a 50-minute lesson.

Poll the class with questions like “how many of you look at your phone for on topic reasons between 0-4 times in an average 50-minute lesson?”

Select the appropriate number of squares on the table on this slide. Using the “shading” feature (top bar, centre of the page), select the colour you want to use.  Continue this way until all students have told you how often they look at their phone for “on topic” and “off topic” reasons.

Slide 14 10 In pairs, have students read the chart and answer the questions on Slide 14 (keep slide 13 up, though).

Have a few students report their statements to the class, correcting grammar where appropriate.

Slide 15 5 minutes Have students discuss their answers to the questions on Slide 15 in pairs.
Slide 16 5 minutes Have students discuss their answers to the questions on Slide 16 in pairs.
Slide 17 20 minutes Have the pairs fill in the t-chart on Slide 17 (using their own paper).

Have a reporter from each pair report one point to the class and fill in the chart on the PowerPoint with notes from everyone.

Slide 18 1 minute Introduce the question for the next phase of the lesson.
Slide 19 10 minutes Have students work in pairs to fill in the mindmap.
15 minutes Have the pairs call out information from their mindmaps and compile it on a large paper (poster board); alternatively, students in pairs or groups could put their thoughts directly onto poster board that you then have them pin to the wall and share.
Slide 20 4 minutes Summarize the discussion and have students answer the question on Slide 20.

Day Three’s Plan (50-minute lesson):

Slide 21 0 minutes Introduce the topic of the lesson.
Slide 22 1 minute Review the discussion from the previous lesson.
Slide 23 27 minutes Have students look at Slide 23. Have them discuss their opinions with a partner.

Ask if anyone has another option to add to the list as an “other” way to have limited cell phone use in the time (for instance, only on one or two days of the week? Only for solo work, but never for group work?).

Have students discuss their opinions in pairs or small groups.

Ask students to vote!

Slide 24 (optional) 10 minutes, or longer as necessary. If the class is somewhat divided, have students give their reasons in support of their opinions in an informal debate.

If there is a strong division in the class, proceed to put students into groups that can debate this topic further (carry on with this stage at this time, or save it for another day’s lesson).

Slide 25 1 minute Determine if a debate needs to take place, and prepare for one if necessary.
Slides 26 and 27 10 minutes Show Slide 26 so students see what we’re aiming to accomplish.

Have students discuss the two questions/scenarios on Slide 27.

Have them share other ideas they come up with.

Have them vote, if necessary, and then finish filling out Slide 26.

Slide 28 1 minute Thank them!
follow-up Monitor how things play out!

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