Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Cell Phones in Class

Today a student's cell phone went off in one of my classes. And kept going off. Really quite distracting. It was an accident, of course--and to the student's enormous credit, s/he scrambled to turn it off, instead of answering it. Which, apparently is not always the case, if this YouTube video is to be believed. (Note that for some reason I can't get the video to load to this blog post, so you'll have to link to it on another site. My apologies.)

Personally, I have trouble believing this is a real event in a class, and just happened to be surreptitiously videoed. I would have believed it more if the prof had leaped the first three rows, grabbed the recording device, and the video had ended with the screen going black as the recording device was smashed to the ground. That would have been truly exciting.

Or maybe this was a sanctioned videoing of the class. The way the camera tracks in perfectly horizontal fashion suggests it is not a camera phone, so maybe that's it. But then again, if I had been the prof, I would have been sorely tempted to confiscate the recording. So I think (I hope) it's staged.

In any event, I promise not to destroy phones in my class if people decide to hold rude sidebar discussions by phone. But I do not promise to not throw someone out of class if that happens.


Mark said...

We had a set-up very much like that at my old job in the .mil. The camera was mounted on a 1/2 sphere that was attached to the back wall. Remote viewers could control the x, y, and zoom of the camera. Often, when we had a big confrence and someone in the audience would speak up, you'd get that weird, almost unnatural, level movement and then the pan up or down to get the person in view. Usually, though, you'd see it frist zoom out from the speaker and then go left then right as it looked for the right person.

In the clip, it went right for the guy.

I agree that it was staged, but what wonderful staging it was.

G. said...

As to answering a cellphone in class, I think all cellphones have caller ID and if a parent saw it was their day care provider/school/etc. calling, I doubt they would be comfortable just ignoring it -- but of course they should run outside to take the call!

Gregory W. Bowman said...


That's a very good point, and a compelling reason to NOT ban cell phones in class. On a related note, my general class policy has been that if people have child care issues, they can bring their kids to class as long as it is not a distraction to other students. So I guess the greater (kids in class) includes the former (cell phones for emergency contact). My students have rarely brought their kids to class, but it has happened, and I support it. Are we supposed to make law school even harder for non-traditional students by not accommodating special circumstances? (Rhetorical question)