• Please USE your Cell-Phones in Class!

      Mujumdar, Sudesh
      “…I never had a class where the teacher has us use our phones for the purpose of learning. I think that is such an innovative method to incorporate into teaching this generation. Dr. Mujumdar’s approach to discussions of economics now have me looking at the world from totally different perspective. Everything is a cost-benefit analysis. I also feel like I have a better understanding of how the entire world is moving toward globalization.” (Quote taken from Student Evaluation of ECON 241.003 – Fall 2013 ) Students using their cell-phones in class has been the scourge of many a Professor attempting to foster a serious academic climate in the classroom. So, a few years ago I was thinking about how if I couldn’t 'win the battle', could I turn the instrument of disruption into an instrument of 'engaged learning'? At the same time, I was mulling over feedback from the Romain College of Business’ Board of Advisors on the skills make-up of our graduates which indicated that while they are at home executing on a task that is similar to what they have encountered in their classes, they have difficulty even beginning to know to how approach an ‘unfamiliar’ task – in terms of deconstructing it in a manner that facilitates addressing it effectively. To address both issues, I created an assignment, where, at the beginning of class, I raise an issue/topic (that most are unfamiliar with). Students can then work in groups and use whatever devices (Smartphones, tablets, laptops, etc.) they have at their disposal to find information on the question or issue that has been raised. Sifting, dissecting and curating the information are the next components of this assignment. Hence, this type of assignment seeks to give students practice in effective ‘deconstruction’ of an unfamiliar task; in this process of finding the information and discussing it with me, they are learning about ‘effective search techniques’, reliability of information, corroboration through multiple sources, and inadvertently, gaining a broader understanding of the issue as they ‘stumble upon’ pieces of information that are relevant, but not narrowly so. This, then, is also a surreptitious way of nurturing the various traits of Critical Thinking. As the Student Quote reveals, the design of the Assignment and its execution with the help of 'disruptive devices', such as the cell-phone, have encouraged stronger engagement with the issue at hand.