Friday, September 30, 2016

Meet "Mr Dock" - a low tech solution to managing digital devices in the classroom

In a previous blog post about attempting to employ an Acceptable Use Policy to manage digital devices in the classroom, I reported that my colleague, Melek Koruda─č, and I had tried out many techniques and applications to help students see how beneficial their smartphones can be in class, but in the end our efforts were abused so badly that we banned the use of phones in class completely. 

After that experience, Melek taught in two more institutions and tried out several other approaches. Eventually, she ended up adapting an idea she had seen at Sabanc─▒ University, Istanbul. Melek had a 'dock' for  phones tailor made from fabric. It has five 'rows' with four 'pouches' in each row in which a mobile phone can be stored.

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Meet 'Mr Dock' class!!
At the beginning of the semester, Melek discusses classroom rules with her students and negotiates terms for the acceptable use of mobile devices in class. She tells them that if they breach the agreement, she will introduce them to "Mr. Dock", who will make sure that no more breaches take place.  At this point, the actual identify of "Mr Dock" is not revealed. 

Melek reports that she has never had a class that hasn't been introduced to Mr Dock, as the students are unable to observe the terms agreed on smartphone use. She has been using Mr. Dock for over a year now and finds it very beneficial.

In practice, "Mr Dock" is hung from coat hooks on the wall.  Students place their phones (ideally in flight mode and/or muted, the screen hidden from view by facing toward the wall) in the pouches of "Mr Dock" at the beginning of each lesson.  If they need to use them for the lesson (kahoot, padlet, google search, dictionary work, etc.), it just takes them seconds to pick them up again and return them after the activity is finished. 

Many thanks to Melek for sharing her experience and acquainting us with "Mr Dock"!  I agree with Melek that it is important to go through the motions of discussing the acceptable use of digital devices in the classroom, and negotiating a class agreement with students.  However, as it seems students lack the necessary willpower to manage their digital device addiction, it is necessary to have an easy to implement "Plan B" to deal with the inevitable breach of agreed acceptable use of digital devices.  "Mr Dock" still makes it easy to use the phones for any class activity with minimal lost time in retrieving and replacing them after the activity is over.

If you have a seating plan that involves rows of desks, it would be an idea to layout out the pouches in "Mr Dock" to replicate the seating arrangement.  Then it would be easy to see if anyone had forgotten to 'dock' their phone.

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