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Cell phones. They are everywhere. Nowadays, most people are more engaged with their mobile devices than they are with their surroundings. Whether they are walking, standing in line, in a business meeting, or even worse—your classroom! As instructors, what can we do to prevent our learners from being consumed by their electronic devices during the course? How can we keep learners focused during training?
Set Ground Rules
- Share ground rules at the beginning of your courses on the use of technology. For example, at the start of each of my workshops, I use my PARTY flip chart to outline the rules for the workshop:
P - Participate freely
A - Ask questions
R - Respect others
T - Turn electronics to silent -or- Turn electronics off and put away
Y - You must arrive on time from breaks
When I review the rules regarding electronics, I connect it with being respectful of others. I share that they can check their phones periodically but to be mindful of how often they are on their phones and to avoid being on their phones during breakout sessions or when their peers are presenting.
- Ask everyone to deposit their phones into a “chicken coop” during the training to avoid any temptations. Thank you for the idea, Chick-fil-A!
- Schedule short, frequent breaks. Be sure to let learners know at the beginning of the course when breaks will take place so they can plan to check their phone/email during that time. At Langevin, we aim for a 5 to 9-minute break every 60-75 minutes.
Engage Learners Using a Variety of Instructional Methods
- Use a variety of presentation and application methods throughout the workshop to keep your learners engaged in the course. This will help learners keep their minds off their electronics. Try to change methods every 10-15 minutes. No one wants to listen to a lecture for 30+ minutes!
- Avoid passive content right before lunch, right after lunch, or close to the end of the day.
- Give tight time guidelines for activities to prevent a lot of downtime.
Use Intervention Techniques
- Try subtle, low-level intervention techniques if learners are using their electronics and not paying attention. For example, walk over to the “offenders” table and continue delivering content from that area for a short while.
- Move to the 2nd level of intervention when the low-level tactics do not work. Call a break, seek privacy, and speak to the learner using the “I statement” technique. For example, “I feel concerned you may not be getting the most out of this workshop while using your phone so frequently.”
As Instructors, we may not be able to solve the worldwide electronic device epidemic, but hopefully by using the above tips we can keep learners focused during training and prevent the epidemic from taking over our classroom!