Dealing with the Digital Generation




  • Overall question:  Do we need to adapt to their technology or do they need to adapt to ours?  Some of both?
  • Technology is generational:  Phoning is how our parents communicate.  Email is the choice for the faculty demographic.  Twitter is also for an older demographic (and celebrities).  Texting (via cell phones) is how our students primarily communicate.
  • VU guidelines:  Two years ago University Council set some guidelines that are printed in the Student Guide to University Life (page 114).  These general guidelines might help faculty in setting their own.  Here is the text:
Respect for the integrity of the educational process requires students and faculty to be actively engaged in intellectual work during class time.  Interruptions caused by audible electronic devices can have a negative effect.  Thus, the following policy is set forth.  Specific enforcement policies may be established by individual instructors. 
To preserve the integrity of the learning environment for faculty and students, all audible electronic devices, such as cell phones, MP3 players, and pagers, should be turned off or set to silent ring or vibrate upon entering the classroom and remain so during class time. 
Here is what the Faculty Handbook says:
3.2.4 Electronic Devices in the Classroom
To preserve the integrity of the learning environment for faculty and students, all audible electronic devices, such as cell phones, MP3 players and pagers, should be turned off or set to silent ring or vibrate upon entering the classroom and remain so during class time.  Specific enforcement policies may be established by individual instructors.
The Faculty Handbook also tells what an instructor might have to resort to in the case of a student who is repeatedly and/or extremely disruptive:
3.8 Student Misconduct
Faculty members may bar students from class for behavior-related actions such as excessive absences or disruptive activities.  These may be appealed to the student deans of the Campus Judiciary Board.  Deans may not bar students from their colleges for misconduct without due process.
  • Email:  Many students don't check it more than once a week.  Should we insist that they check it daily?  Is there a way that Blackboard could not only email students but also text them about time sensitive class information?
  • One instructor allows students to use their cell phone application for a foreign language dictionary during exams, but worries about cheating.
  • One instructor daily uses the phrase "deactivate and stow," another tells students to treat the class like the takeoff of an airplane:  no electronic devices allowed.
  • Is it an addiction of sorts?  Are students unable to separate from their electronic devices?
  • Laptop notetaking:  Many instructors allow it, but then police it by walking around the room to see that the computer is not being used for non-class activities.
  • New tech = new etiquette:  Students seem to think that it is rude not to return a text message immediately, even during class or during dinner.
  • Jen Gregory, VU's Director of Instructional and Learning Services, worked on a document on classroom civility for Purdue Calumet.  She is happy to serve as a reference point for faculty on this issue. Here are links to both the Student Civility Guide and the faculty companion guide:

Additionally, this last link is a copy of one of the documents given out as an example of course policies.


  • Day one:  Ask them what is their primary mode of communication:  texting, email, instant messaging, etc.  Then use this information to communicate class information?
  • Facebook:  One instructor created a class Facebook page.  Only one student used it extensively; however, that student still keeps in touch even after the class is over.
  • Voice recorder:  One instructor now dictates comments on student papers and sends these to students as a pdf file that they can download and listen to.
  • Cell phone camera/video:  Have students take pictures of things for vocabulary lessons or make short videos for a class assignment.
  • Wickis:  One instructor creates a class wicki-page where students can share photos, writing, etc.
  • Twitter:  One faculty member uses Twitter to communicate with colleagues on other campuses.  They share ideas and ask for help on problems they are working on.
  • Field trips:  One faculty member finds that cell phones are good for field trips, allows students to stay in touch if they get separated.
  • Computers:  Some allow students to use them for exams.  Positive:  this is the main way they usually write so the writing is much more legible and coherent.  Negatives:  Possible cheating.  Students do not learn to outline before they write (as they must with handwritten essays).
  • Reading:  Do students prefer to read on their cell phones/computers?  Can we send readings to them electronically rather than make photocopies?  One teacher found that this worked well and students read more.
  • Screen capture:  Could cell phones be used for small group work?  This could work if we had "screen capture," i.e. the ability to display each group's work on a larger screen that the whole room could see.  Possibly Adobe Connect could do this?
  • Abilene Christian University embraces cell phone technology.  They have entering students purchase either an iPod or iPhone.  They provide a customized application for mobile learning and lots of training for faculty on how to incorporate it in the classroom.  To learn more go to: (per Jodie Reminder, VU Coordinator of Instructional Design and Faculty Consulting).


As a University, we need to talk about how to deal with these new technologies.  In our strategic planning we should consider faculty development in the use of new technologies.