A trainer's nemesis: That (bleeping) cell phone!

Whatever the trainer does, he or she must acknowledge the reality of modern students’ addiction to digital devices


The reminder to silence those cell phones is inevitably missed by someone with a Sex and the City ringtone whether it be in a movie theater, a church or your squad room.

So what’s a trainer to do about those pesky iPads, iPods, and iPhones?

1.) Collect them in a safe location outside the classroom. This option has the greatest guarantee of preventing ring-tone and vibration interruptions. You’ll have to have a secure location and a way to ensure that the device gets back to its owner. If you allow access during breaks, this could be a cumbersome process.

The student who is forced to unplug is going to have genuine anxiety about being out of touch. Their supervisors, friends, and partners who are used to instant communication will also suffer pangs of consternation, causing the student additional guilt and worry. If cells are banned, the student should have plenty of notice in order to prepare for the temporary lapse in service.

2.) Limit their use during class time. Asking for restraint will meet with limited success. The cell phone will always compete for attention. Laptops and tablets will be claimed as note taking devices but Facebook and instant messaging will be lurking in the background.

The best remedy is a solid classroom management technique that enhances learning whether competing with digital intrusions or not. Frequent feedback opportunities, peer interaction, and classroom discussion will pull the student to engage or be left out.

If a student fails to engage, the trainer has every right to allow the student to fail on their own or, if the cyber-addict is a distraction to others, be tossed out for the day.

Peer engagement is always important and networking has benefits beyond collaboration on the topic of the day. These informal connections used to happen on breaks. Since break time is now check your message time, these connections are less likely to happen.

A wise trainer will build in networking and collaboration opportunities within the training day. Social engagement is an important component of learning.

3.) Integrate students' devices into the course. This is the boldest and most innovative of the choices. Gathering students’ text and email information and putting them on a Twitter account for the course enables the instructor to send questions, highlights, reminders, or assignments to students during class. Dialogue about the course may continue long after the class is over, effecting new networking in the social media age.

Asking students to look up definitions or even concepts online during class can create opportunity for interaction and increase the knowledge base for the student and teacher.

Questions during class may be posed via Twitter or email to the instructor, or even displayed on the screen from the laptop projector for all to see as an alternative to raising hands.

Presentation slides or websites can be provided to students on their devices. Trainers will need to get in a habit of specifically asking for “eyes on me for this one” with students who are engaging material on their digital devices. This may be less of a problem than the current scourge of trainers reading off of a screen or competing with other visual aids that make the speaker seem irrelevant.

Whatever the trainer does, he or she must acknowledge the reality of modern students’ addiction to digital devices — if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!

About the author

Joel Shults operates Street Smart Training and is the founder of the National Center for Police Advocacy.. He is retired as Chief of Police for Adams State University in Colorado. Over his 30 year career in uniformed law enforcement and in criminal justice education Joel has served in a variety of roles: academy instructor, police chaplain, deputy coroner, investigator, community relations officer, college professor, and police chief, among others. Shults earned his doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis from the University of Missouri, with a graduate degree in Public Services Administration and bachelors in Criminal Justice Administration from the University of Central Missouri. In addition to service with the US Army military police and CID, Shults has done observational studies with over fifty police agencies across the country. He has served on a number of advisory and advocacy boards including the Colorado POST curriculum committee as a subject matter expert.

Follow Joel on Twitter @ChiefShults.

Contact Joel Shults

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