I had a conversation with a new professor this week.  Although she was new to teaching, she was knowledgeable, enthusiastic, passionate, creative…everything that we look for in our new CofC faculty.  Listen in on part of our conversation when she met me (her friendly neighborhood instructional technologist) for the first time:

New Faculty Member: Oh, so you help with technology?  Well, my big concern is what to do about students with cell phones in class.  And how do I know if they are really using those laptops to take notes?

It was inevitable, wasn’t it?  As a teacher, you are always concerned about whether or not your students are engaging with the material and focusing their attention where it needs to be.  My response?

Friendly Neighborhood Instructional Technologist: When it comes to devices in the classrooms, there are two main ways to look at it:  Ban them and cut off all ties, or harness their powers for good instead of evil and open up a whole new world of interaction and engagement.

No matter what your position is on using technology in the classroom, your students need to know where you stand.  Creating a policy statement is essential for communicating your expectations to the students.

Here are some tips to consider when creating your technology use policy:

  • Examine your school culture:  There is a massive amount of information available about teaching the Tech Generation as a whole, but how is that reflective on College of Charleston’s campus?  Conduct your own research or student panel to see what students really use their technology for and what THEY expect in the classroom.  You may be surprised at what you find out…
  • Look to your colleagues:  interview other faculty members who teach similar courses to see how they use technology in their classes.  You may also want to check and see if your department has a technology use policy or recommended tools.
  • Consider possible exceptions to the policy:  For example, a student requiring assistive technology may stand out in class if all technology is banned, but if devices were allowed to all students for note taking purposes, the student wouldn’t be identified as having a disability to their peers.
  • Be familiar with the technology:  It is easier to make a policy when you understand the ins and outs of how the device works and how the programs can and shouldn’t be used in the classroom environment.
  • Broaden the scope: instead of making separate policies for cell phone vs. tablet vs. laptop use, consider making one all-encompassing statement about acceptable and responsible use. It is best to state your expectations using positive language.  For example, instead of “don’t use Facebook in class”, try “use applications that are appropriate for class, like productivity or note taking apps.”  Remember, “tools and media have no intent…people do and the policy is made for people,” (Neilson, 2012).
  • Review your policy frequently:  Keep up to date with new technologies that are emerging on a constant basis.  A great way to do this is by attending TLT training sessions and Faculty Technology Institutes (Yes, that was a shameless plug…but it’s still true!)



Neilson, Lisa. “The Innovative Educator: Looking to Create a Social Media or BYOD Policy? Look No Further.” The Innovative Educator: Looking to Create a Social Media or BYOD Policy? Look No Further. N.p., 3 June 2012. Web. 10 Jan. 2013.

Anderson, Steven. “Social Media Guidelines.” Edutopia. N.p., 11 Apr. 2012. Web. 10 Jan. 2013.