Watching the students’ heads slowly dip down to the glow of their cell phone screens always felt like a facilitation defeat for me during my orientation leader trainings. If only I could be more engaging. If only they would be more respectful. If only cell phones weren’t so addicting!
It was easy to find a lot of ways to create blame around the situation, but what about coming up with some solutions? With a renewed sense of determination, I started to experiment with ways to better allow for students to check in with their phones, while also keeping everyone focused, engaged, and on track with our training goals.
The initial option I decided not to pursue for two reasons was to ban cell phones from the training. Firstly, I felt like doing so would be treating the students as children and not adults. Secondly, I have moments throughout the training where I want them to use their cell phones.
With banning off the table, I came up with three ways to find the balance with cell phone usage and training engagement:
1) Make it Purposeful – There’s a section of the training where we have all the students take some selfies and then ask them to upload the selfies to social media with a specific hashtag that engages the incoming students. During that segment I purposefully ask the students to pull out their cell phones and challenge them in under two minutes to create the ultimate group selfie.
2) Build in Cell Time – I tell the students ahead of time that they’ll have an opportunity to use their cell phone on breaks. By setting up that they’ll have cell time built into the schedule, it enforces that cell phone use during the training is highly discouraged.
3) The Peer Pressure Put-It-Away – I’ve stopped putting the pressure on myself to keep telling everyone to put their phones away. Instead, when we come back from a break, or use a phone for an activity, I have everyone turn to their neighbor and say, “hey you, put that phone away.” This minor shift in who’s making the request, from me to a peer, ups the compliance to almost 100% every time.
It’s not about saying no, it’s about saying yes to cell phone use in a smart and effective way during a training. When done right, I’ve found that allowing the student to connect with their digital devices has increased their engagement during the training. Try out these three tips, or share in the comments below how you’ve managed to leverage cell phone usage during your trainings.
This post is part of our #App2Campus series, which aims to share ideas for using mobile to drive student engagement on campus. We will hear from all kinds of #SApros who have used phone technology to foster a sense of community and connection between the students, face to face. For more information, please see Sabina’s intro post. Be sure to check out other posts in this series.