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How to handle lecturer who doesn't let me use my phone?

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( 3 months ago )

Inspired by another question where a user asks how to handle students with a phone, my question is from the opposite perspective: what is the correct response when a lecturer asks one to put away the phone?

This actually recently happened to me (a few months ago), and for obvious reasons (not wanting to interrupt the flow of the lecture, not wanting to have a falling out with the professor, etc), I just put my phone down.

But to be honest, I don't think that's the correct response, or at least I feel this is not the way it should be, because I find such demands inappropriate for a number of reasons, and so I shouldn't be giving in to them, should I?

My reasoning:

First of all, and this may sound immature, but what I do with my phone is none of the lecturer's business. As long as I am not disturbing anybody (audio is always off, I am never typing loudly because it's a touch-screen, and nobody is distracted by the screen because I make sure to sit in the back), it shouldn't be a problem.

Secondly, I find that such demands can impede my learning. I often use the phone to look up information related to what the lecturer is actually talking about. If a topic is mentioned that I don't quite recall, a quick google search or a 10-second glance at the topic's Wikipedia page brings me up to speed. Or perhaps the textbook for the course is on my cloud server and I need to the phone to actually access the book, if I didn't bring (or even buy) the physical copy.

Finally, I find it highly disrespectful to call a student out for being on a phone in the middle of a lecture in front of all others. Such conversations, if they need to be had, should be had in private. Approach me after the lecture or during the break if you have a problem. Don't call me out in front of the entire class.



( 3 months ago )

this may sound immature

And it is.

You're acting as if you have the right to do what you want. You don't!

It's a teaching session in a building owned and run by other people and they set the rules and delegate the authority.

You have two legitimate choices (1) obey the rules and the authority or (2) leave.

If you want to protest the rule, contact your student union (a legitimate channel for complaints). You can pass your opinion along that way. However the decision still rests with the people in authority, and ultimately you will have to accept that fact.

Note also that the people making that decision are both experienced teachers and students themselves. You are not. Respect their experience.

There's one more important reason:

You are there to learn. You should be paying attention and listening. You may need to ask questions and you may miss something if you don't.

I watch a driving show where bad drivers are educated and it's astonishing to see how many of the bad drivers put forward all sorts of elaborate rationalizations for using a phone when driving. People are, simply, addicted to their phones. Learn to do without it. If you can't sit through a lecture without your phone, it bodes ill for when you hit the real world.

Note then if you were my employee and you started looking at your phone when I was presenting a report in a meeting, you'd be on your way to being fired.

The right you think you have to use a phone when you want does not exist.

Respect the rules other people set when using their resources.

It's that simple.

Finally, I find it highly disrespectful to call a student out for being on a phone in the middle of a lecture in front of all others

You are now experiencing the real world. The one where people call you out to your face and in public for your errors.

Get used to it. It's the difference between an adult and child. All part of learning.

How disrespectful were you being by ignoring the teacher? Did you think about that?

Immature is the right word.

Edit : regarding this and similar comments :

There are too many comments to address individually and this is as much effort as I'm willing to spend on this relatively small storm in a teacup. My gut feeling is this won't make people who oppose my viewpoint any happier, but they deserve some kind of response. But life's too short, so this is probably all I'll be doing on the subject.

Remember : Agree to Disagree is not ideal, but it's practical. :-)

One thing which could improve this answer is an acknowledgement that the OP is paying the institution for certain services and - unless he disturbs others - it's not the institution owning his time and not their place to order him around. The OP is not working for the professor, the professor is working for him.

That's not how it works ( in the real world :-) ).

The fantasy that "the professor is working for him" is not correct. What is happening is that for a fee you are permitted access to the resources (including lectures) of the college/school. But that's not a one way contract - you are accepting the authority of the college/school and it's agents and their rules. Typically that small print gives the lecturer rather a lot more power and discretion than you realize.

If the rules are really unreasonable (e.g. pretty girls/guys in front, stand all the time when there are seats, etc.) then you have two choices : dispute them in some legal way (e.g. contact the authorities or ultimately take legal action) or leave.

Now one of the most basic rules is that you pay attention. It's not complicated. It's nor strange. It's not an infringement on your human rights. It's an implicit (possibly explicit) part of your contract with the school. It's the only thing you are required to do at a lecture beyond those other common sense things of not disturbing other people, dressing, not eating, not drinking, not talking - and so on..

And, yes, it can disturb other people when you start using your phone to text or whatever.

OP just said they did put the phone down when the teacher asked

That's nice but the issue is the fact they should not have been using the phone in the first place. The OP doesn't get this or the question would not have been asked here.

I've explained the OP needs to contact the authorities via appropriate channels. That's all there is to it.

Many people seem upset by my post. Fine. They have a right to be upset if that's how they feel. If it's any consolation when I was a young student I also thought every rule, restriction and law was personally aimed at suppressing my rights. Maturity (experience) teaches you that it's not that black and white. Some rules are necessary.

Inconvenience is not the same as being deprived of a right.

I am happy to encourage people who disagree to say so, but if you want change remember three things :

  • I can't change things. You need to exercise normal legal political activity to try and get changes you want. In normal political activity you do not always get what you want. So contact your student unions, get a petition going, make a logical case to the authorities. But be prepared to not win, because that happens. Never start a battle you are not prepared to lose.

  • You can get more with a carrot and stick than you can with a stick. Make a logical case why using a phone would benefit the college and lecturer as well as the student and you'll get a lot further than talking about rights you don't actually have. That kind of approach will sound very naive to the authorities.

  • There are better battles for your energies that the right to fiddle with your phone during lectures. Put that youthful vigor into something more useful to the rest of the world, please.

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