Game of Phones

In my secondary and higher education, I had a hard time in lecture-based courses. Not so much with grades because I could read the material myself and understand it as if I paid attention in class, but my problems begin with attention. Like I said, I could read the material, as most classes had assigned pre-readings, then the professors lectured on that material. Eventually, not paying attention changed to falling asleep during class, and eventually to not showing up for class. I just had no willpower to be talked at to learn information that I could learn better by myself. But this was not true of my introductory chemistry and biochemistry classes. That’s because of the professor, who integrated technology into the classroom. She understood that technology could be used to directly benefit the students in class. This technology was just using basic tablets to actually write out answers on a digital POGIL lesson.


An interesting graphic on the “Components of a 21st Century Classroom” to break up text a bit. 

Because of that experience, I like blended classroom models rather than flipped classrooms (for the difference click here). I feel that blended classrooms can give a basic understanding of the current topic and the students can put together the mastery together independently or in groups. And I think that’s why I enjoyed the NPR article, “Laptops And Phones In The Classroom: Yea, Nay Or A Third Way?”. This article gave me several viewpoints on the use of technology in the classroom, and I contrasted that with my experience in my colligate chemistry classes. I liked the idea of using the Flipd app to limit the extraneous use of technology in an educational setting, however I agree with the blended classroom use of technology in the classroom. So, I found the response above that one by Derek Bruff to be the most compelling. The problem might not be that the phones are addictive, so much as that the professor has not effectively reached his or her students. I believe that the integration of technology into curriculum and teaching will help facilitate reaching students to ignite a passion for learning.

That idea was explored in the Chronicle commentary,  “Setting Students’ Minds on Fire“, where the game was designed as an aspect of the class. The specific game in question, at least to me, sounded like a way to explore History and Philosophy specifically. I would expect a heavy initial workload to develop something like that, but something not as dramatic as developing a game can be expected from professors. I would expect that a professor would be fully prepared to teach a class before the start date, and in fact always be continually developing their curricula throughout the year. I currently feel unprepared to assist in my current TA assignment. My instructor of record only began to prepare for this class three days before the start of this semester, despite my continued communication. We are using new technology, TopHat, and everyone is unfamiliar. If I had been able to prepare more, I would know how to use the software in order to be more helpful to my students.

Well, that’s enough of my rambling for this week. I’d appreciate any comments, so that we can open a dialogue  if we agree or even if we disagree. I’ll see y’all on Wednesday.


Ok, one more picture, the comments are coming…

12 thoughts on “Game of Phones

  1. I agree, there really could be a “third way” to use technology rather than an all or nothing approach. I liked what some of those quoted in the NPR article said regarding balance. One said that there are times in a class where the laptops should be set aside, but otherwise they are a useful tool.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’ve had some time to think about my blog post and to do some more research. I was surprised to find the number of articles and blog posts that were against the use of technology in the classroom (the worst offender- But, I did find a study by Ellucian ( that directly explored what college students want when it come to technology at a university. This survey showed that college students are looking for a tech savvy, personalized, and connected technological experience, which lends to the idea that technology should be integrated into the classroom to facilitate learning. I’ll see ya Wednesday.


      • Thank you for sharing this study by Ellucian! I have been thinking about what the students want/need for a while now. We keep talking about what WE think is best for them from the front of the classroom. In this process, we are belittling our students who know themselves better than we think we know them. We should be working WITH our students to create an environment that is conducive to their learning. I believe they will tell us the honest truth if we ask them- with some possible exceptions of those who truly struggle to put their phone away. Those who care will work with us to create a better approach to technology in the classroom.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I totally agree that technology (specifically laptops) can be used as an in-class tool to enhance the learning process and to grab students’ attention and make classes more interesting. The fact that laptops can potentially cause distraction does not seem reasonable to me to forbid using them in class. Instead, instructors need to come up with another solution to motivate students to get involved in class activities. It is just really easy to lose focus in some lecture-based classes, with or without laptops.


    • Who or what is at fault for the loss of focus? I feel that some people are quick to blame the technology and it’s impact on developing brains, but I believe that it is the instructor and their teaching that just fails to be engaging. The use of technology in the class room and innovation that can come with it is what higher education needs to recapture the imagination of the next generation of learners. Where would the human race be if technology wasn’t used at its full potential? The circuits in our phone might still be the size of rooms. We wouldn’t be gearing up to begin to explore the universe beyond Earth. Technology is the drumbeat in the March towards the future and education needs to reflect that. I got a little carried away, but reading through other blog posts, people are against any sort of technology in the classroom, which I think that is a mistake.


  3. I appreciate the infographic – how interesting. I agree that technology can help inspire motivation to learn, by combating the boring factor of lectures. Also interesting that you mention time being a barrier to integrating new technologies in the classroom. Perhaps this leads to the continuance of lecture based learning, despite evidence suggesting integrative methods as beneficial to student learning and outcomes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I would agree with your comment that time is the factor that helps continue the lecture-based classroom. It is much easier to construct a speech to deliver to a class, then it is to design self-guided inquiry exercises that allow students to learn basic information and put the mastery together themselves. But, I believe that as future instructors, we need to invest the time to develop innovative teaching strategies, not only because it will be beneficial to students, but because the profession of teaching needs innovation in order to stay current with the fast paced world we live in today. The US prides itself on its educational system, but we will not be competitive at any level if we do not evolve from the 20th century teaching techniques.


  4. Thanks for your post! I really enjoyed reading the post and the discussion that has followed. I personally have a hard time with generalized statements such as technology should never be allowed or technology should always be allowed. I think we should be intentional when structuring our classroom environments and figure out how we want to incorporate technology or if we want to have activities where technology is not included. But having that be a conscious decision and not a default. I really appreciated the examples that you provided based on your own experiences. Thanks for sharing!

    I also wanted to chime in on the time aspect. It can take a lot of time to implement some of the changes that we will talk about in class. And I agree that we should take the time to develop our teaching strategies. But there are also ways to make small changes that make a big difference. I know my tendency is to want to completely redesign and restructure a course to incorporate projects, inquiry assignments, etc. But I also tend to get overwhelmed with all of the different things that I have to do in addition to teaching. So for me it has been helpful to think about small changes that I can make now and continue to make which will lead to a big difference. This “making small changes” approach also lets me make changes and adjustments along the way and evaluate what aspects are working well and what aspects are not working well.

    Thanks for the post! I am excited to continue the discussion in class on Wednesday!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for your advice. I would use the small changes approach if I was working on a course I already designed. As I am relatively new, I can identify projects and/or inquiry assignments from the get go and build my syllabus around those projects. I can’t make any promises, but I would like to believe that I would be constantly analyzing my teaching methods for effectiveness, just like I am constantly analyzing my experiments right now during my PhD, in order to identify areas where I am not engaging students or they are not fully mastering the material. I am building this skill now, and I can see myself applying that to my future career path.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow — you are popular with this post 🙂 You’re title is so clever! I really liked you bringing up flipped vs. blended classroom models. I have heard of those terms before but never really understood exactly what they meant. Thus, I greatly appreciate your link to the other page. I think part of the problem is that many teachers don’t know how to communicate effectively, but I also think that attention spans are becoming shorter and shorter. When I was younger, I would sit down to watch a show on TV and just do that. Now, I sit down to watch a show on TV, am working on something on my computer, and texting someone on my phone.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Erin. I’m glad someone brought up attention spans. Because of my background in science, I always like to find the sources of information. The study that the conclusion that our attention spans are shrinking is actually from a survey by Microsoft Canada that was reported several times by the media. An article by BBC News ( also got to the bottom of it. Their investigation found that a fixed attention span is “meaningless” and in fact we as a species are becoming better at multitasking and task dependent attention. (They also had an ichthyologist debunk the 8 second attention span of goldfish). This sort of research can help in higher education. Instructors can think about ways to tap into the task-dependent attention during their teaching.


  6. Good afternoon Britton,

    I’m LOVING the game of thrones tie-in. I’m a serious advocate for doing anything related to the series! LOL! Yeah you are an extremely brilliant young man so I could see how you would be bored by someone who only lectures. The professor clearly didn’t do a great job at identifying the different learning styles and engagement level of the class participants. I definitely think one must integrate technology along the way but in a well balanced manner.


    Cheers, Lehi

    Liked by 1 person

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