Dr. J’s “Don’t Be A Jerk” Classroom Technology Policy

My main concern is that you practice using the technologies and methods that help you think and learn best. Different things will work for different people. And that’s good! The more different kinds of thinkers and learners we have making constructive contributions to class discussion, the better.

However, because we are all inhabiting a shared physical and intellectual space, we need to be conscientious and respectful of others’ needs. So, this means being mindful of the ways our technology use can become an impediment to others. This is the foundation of my one rule for tech use in class: do whatever you want, just don’t be a jerk about it.

For example, chiseling notes on a stone tablet is noisy and messy, so that’s not really an acceptable technology to use in class. Using a laptop is usually fine, unless you’re being very audibly or visually loud, creating distractions for people sitting next to you. It’s OK to take a quick attention break and check social media or whatever, but it’s probably best to do this on your phone so your screen doesn’t create visual distractions for people seated near you. In fact, learning how to tune in and out productively is a job skill that translates way beyond the classroom (I, uh, use it in meetings…). At the same time, appearing constantly checked out is rude to your classmates and shows that you don’t value their time because you’re not pulling your weight contributing to class discussion.

If someone else is crossing the line and doing something that’s becoming a problem for you, it’s totally acceptable to politely ask them to stop: “I’m so sorry, but specific thing X is making it hard for me to hear/see/stay on focus. It would be a huge help if you could stop.” Remember asking someone to stop doing something that’s distracting you is also about being considerate and respectful of them–treat them as an equal, not a criminal.


Really, all I am asking of you is to be considerate of others as you occupy and work in a shared physical and intellectual space.