Nowadays almost everybody uses such devices almost every time! Particularly during my lectures in the class I can see some students who are working with their iPads and mobile phones. In such a situation I usually think about two possible situation and two possible reactions as follows:

Good Case:

The student is searching in the internet for more information about what I am teaching.

In this case Good Saint Georg's reaction could be:

Waiting for a possibly good question by that student which is an opportunity to introduce new aspects of the teaching material.

Bad Case:

The student is doing something unrelated to what I am teaching.

In this case Evil Saint Georg's reaction could be:

Declaring loudly to all students that "Shut down your devices or get out of my class!"

Question: What is a wise strategy about students iPads and mobile phones in class during my lectures? Should I remove the problem by banning all students to bring any devices to my classes or there are more soft ways to manage this situation?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The student is searching in the internet for more information about what I am teaching Do you believe the student was listening to you while he was searching? $\endgroup$
    – Nobody
    Jul 27, 2014 at 7:36
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The student might also be taking notes using their device in some cases. Some students with disabilities may use a laptop or iPad as assistive technology. $\endgroup$ Jul 27, 2014 at 21:11
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ What age group are you asking about? $\endgroup$ Jul 27, 2014 at 21:17

3 Answers 3


This depends strongly on the age-group. My course notes for grad-level courses are on-line as PDFs, and many of my students use their iPads to mark on the PDFs during my lectures... the latter talking more informally about the material, highlighting certain details, generally trying to complement the inevitably more formal tone of the PDF'd notes.

No, I cannot be sure they're not also checking email or messages. But it's infeasible to separate one from the other without being over-bearing, I think.

Certainly note-taking is ever-more feasible on iPads, and also on laptops, so how could we really demand "paper"?

Attempting to distinguish "phones" from "tablets" is ever harder (cf. "iPad mini").

The thing to attempt to require is "civility" (of students toward the teacher and toward their peers)... although younger students may not understand what this entails.


"While I am lecturing" is generally not the time that mobile devices at their best use in a mathematics classroom - at least if we're talking about purposes that are specifically mathematical. For the students to actually be engaging in some sort of mathematics, they should be focused on whatever they're trying to do with the devices, talking to each other about what they're doing on the devices, or the like.

For the device to be put to good mathematical use, you should be able to answer the question: "what sort of mathematical thinking was the student doing while using the device? What is evidence that suggests this thinking was going on?"

This question applies at any level (obviously the mathematics will be different) but a good example is some pilot research I was involved with using Sketch Explorer on the iPad with classes of fourth grade students. Groups of students engaged in a number of geometry activities together on the iPads, argued about different approaches to the problems they faced, and then reported their group's strategies back to the whole classroom for further discussion.

For a use that is not specifically or demonstrably mathematical, I often used my iPad to take notes in my graduate classes and colloquia. I would create concept maps, for example, that structured my notes of the lecture or classroom discussion or the colloquium speaker's presentation.

A wise strategy that has something to do so mathematics would be to understand how technology can be part of the mathematical environment of your classroom. That's going to take more than an answer on stackexchange. The final question as you have worded it, however, is a very general question about classroom management and conduct, and I don't see it as having much to do with mathematics education specifically. Above, I have tried to link it to a little of what I know about technology use in mathematics education.

Since providing references is inconvenient for me at the moment, you may consider this an opinion answer.


The ubiquitousness of cell phones has made it incredibly challenging to hold students' attention throughout class.

However, I feel students should be held accountable and responsible for their own learning. After all, why should other students' learning be disrupted while another student is texting or browsing the internet or whatever quietly?

If a student asks me to go over something I just got done talking about (and they were on their phone), I have no quarrels with telling them they should have paid attention.


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