Never in my classroom -usage of mobile devices

theLingoGuy classroom rule book

#2 Usage of mobile devices

sub section B: do not allow mobile devices to become a distraction

Normally this is a bane of any teacher. And how to get to grips with allowing students these devices but restricting or finding appropriate usage is a constant battle.

We have all been distracted by a mobile on a tram (streetcar), train or in a restaurant or pub, and I am sure at some point been annoyed by this. Then imagine how it is for a teacher to be disturbed by  a pupil or student’s phone.

I used to be a zero tolerance kinda teacher, but I have mellowed.  Now my standard reponse to a telephone ringing is to allow them to answer it in the lesson. Only under the condition that they speak English, otherwise they have to leave the room.

Answering it may distract from a task or the goal of a lesson. However it gives you as a teacher an impromptu insight into the telephone skills of the recipient of the call. Also you can quickly write on the board/ flipchart that their classmates should listen for mistakes.

The analysis that ensues is usually beneficial. In most cases the recipient is usually embarrassed and desists from answering the phone or makes sure it is on silent or switched off in future. In some rare cases they have liked the fact they had to use English spontaneously as well as get a chance to use their English telephone skills.

Of course this  method relies on the caller also being able to speak English. Occasionally there is the bonus of  adjustment of communication level (one rarely touched on by teachers or material): tone, politeness and (in)formality. Especially if the recipient is a University student and the caller is their parent.

sub section C: be flexible for appropriate mobile device usage

In a recent lesson I was not able to use a text as a spring board for discussion due to the photocopier of the establishment being out of order. Therefore I found a text online on the subject and was able to beam it onto the wall behind me for the students to read.

The room was large, had rows of tables and a group of tables at the back set up  for a normal meeting scenario. So from  my group of a dozen or so, one group took this table and the  other made do with turning round to the row behind them.

No probs.

As I went to the front group, which is a normal response, the back group did not feel they had enough input. So I suggested they get their laptops and find appropriate input.

Both groups had very different responses to the task ” selling the concept of smart phones for the blind”.

The front group (no lappis) concentrated on their opinions of the appropriateness of the product, arguing back and forth on various aspects of the feasibility of  it.

The back group (with lappis) really looked at the competitive advantages of the product, and the opportunities and threats in the market. This may have been due to their added input using their mobile devices.


How do you control mobile device usage in the classroom or your company?

Do you set ground rules from the outset, and how flexible are you in adapting them?







A native Brit, Stewart is from the East Midlands. He has worked all over England and has been in Germany since 2002. Through working with the youth and the disabled he has been able to fine tune his communication skills. A Cambridge qualified (CELTA/LCCI CerTEB) instructor of English as a Foreign Language, he also has experience as a copy editor/ proof reader specializing in Higher Education and Business English. He assists established companies & local English trainers (LELTA) in optimizing their platforms, markets & copy (texts). With a Bachelors degree in English & Art, he brings diverse skills within a broad palette to his academic courses, an English speakers community (So Social Club) & an art project (Lebenskunstler). Not only focusing on creative expression but exemplary use of language.


  • Azize Besik

    I don’t like my pupils’ using phone in classes except educational purposes.


  • Stewart Tunnicliff (theLingoGuy)

    Obviously there is a difference between allowing students or pupils.
    Some of my students may have to, as they are doing dual courses whereby they are still reachable for work.
    Alson depends how you view discipline and the your role of authority within the classroom. Over time I have reigned back on the need for this, sometimes with drawbacks but on the whole aloowing a more laid back yet focused atmosphere.

  • Torsten Daerr

    I always tell the groups I work with to bring their mobile devices to class. Many have an iPhone or smartphone, some bring their laptops or Chromebooks. Learning English without using online resources is almost impossible.

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