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But I Need That Phone!
By Joe Bouchard
Published: 10/30/2017

Cellphone_handcuffs

The following is an installment in "Icebreakers 101: Hello, My Name is Problem", a series featuring "Ice Breaker's" designed to promote training awareness and capabilities in the corrections industry.

Instructors today face an attention-grabbing peril. In earlier years, it really did not exist. Yet, as time marches forward and technology inexorably pushes on, this compelling force saps students’ focus from the front of the room.

No matter how interesting the instructor or subject matter may be, students are invariably dragged to this hand-held window to the world. It is the cell phone and its handiness and ubiquity make it a challenge to all instructors.

I am not calling for a total moratorium on cell phone usage in class. There are times such as emergencies that warrant their use. In addition, while lecturing and if challenged by a student on particulars or opinions, I will on occasion allow the use of a smart phone to fact-check. Of course, the student must cite the source.

Otherwise, bye-bye, phones while I am teaching. DO NOT USE YOUR PHONES DURING CLASS is the new mantra. Rather than softly implore students to “please put away the cell phones”, I take this more direct approach. And, at the risk of sounding unapproachable, dictatorial or downright unfriendly, I wrap it in the form of an icebreaker. It is a four-part formula icebreaker, perfect for the first day of class. It goes like this:
  1. The instructor writes the following on the board:
  1. Name,
  2. Time at college/corrections agency,
  3. Goal for this class,
  4. and your excuse why you need your cellphone in class
  1. I would go first:
  1. Hi, my name is Joe Bouchard
  2. I have been at this college for 17 years/23 years with the Department of Corrections
  3. My goal is to teach you fundamentals of corrections in an interesting manner
  4. I need my phone in class so I can check AccuWeather to prepare for the ride home
  1. Each student does the same thing in turn.
  2. After the first volunteer delivers the four introductory points, encourage that student to pick a “volunteer” to do the same.
  3. Compile a list as students give information. Keep the reasons they want to use a cell phone in class in different columns. Some may be in the serious column – I am awaiting news of my Dad’s status in the hospital. Or, the answer could be less-than-serious. – I am in the middle of a snap chat streak that I cannot break.
This lets students know each other better and the instructor can take the pulse of the class, looking for introverts and extroverts.

In the unlikely event that you try this and all refuse to answer question 4, here are a few possible answers (serious and not so serious)
  • My friend is going through a horrible breakup
  • I have to pick up my uncle from the airport and need to wait for a call
  • I am a volunteer fire fighter
  • I might have a work emergency
  • I like Facebook – I am an addict!
  • There is a baby on the way in my family and I must monitor the phone for information
  • I can play candy crush and listen to you. It is called multitasking.
For corrections and criminal justice classes, this is a nice segue into the dangers of powerful smart phones in the hands of offenders. This can also be used to start sessions on persuasion or manipulation. Label me as unswerving, if you will. I simply will not try to compete with phones and I shut them down. Still, I look forward to the creativity that some will employ to keep their cell phone on their desk.

Joe Bouchard is a Librarian employed with the Michigan Department of Corrections and a collaborator with The International Association of Correctional Training Personnel (IACTP). He is also the author of “IACTP’s Corrections Icebreakers: The Bouchard 101, 2014” and "Operation Icebreakers: Shooting for Excellence" among others. The installments in this series include his opinions. The agency for which he works is not in any way responsible for the content or accuracy of this material, and the views are those of the contributor and not necessarily those of the agency. While some material is influenced by other works, all of the icebreakers have been developed by Joe Bouchard.

Visit the Joe Bouchard page

Other articles by Bouchard:


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