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Rus Slater

Coach and Courses


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delegates using their mobiles during a course


"Judge Dennis Graves had asked jurors not to use their mobile phones during the case at Marion County Circuit Court in Salem, Oregon, USA.  Whilst the jury was watching a video of evidence, the eagle eyed judge spotted juror Benjamin Kohler sending a text, when he should have been paying attention to the accused in the video.  The judge called a break and took Kohler to one side for a chat about his behaviour.  Kohler was held in contempt and sentenced to two days in jail!"

Do you think that putting that on a slide at the beginning of the day would help get the message across to the smartphone addicts?

8 Responses

  1. Modern etiquette

    This is always a bit of a minefield. I let people know there will be breaks when they can check messages, return calls/emails but that it would be respectful if they left them alone during the sessions.

    I have actually asked someone to leave a course as they were permanently glued to their phone.


  2. etiquette or practicality?


    It would be considered exceptionally rude for someone to be engaging in a verbal conversation with a third party whilst supposedly paying attention to another person.  If the conversation is via text message does that make it less rude?


    Despite claims concerning the ability of people to multi-task, can a person really be paying attention to two things as once?  You can't drive and text and you can't cross a level crossing and text so can you listen to a debate and contribute sensibly and text at the same time?


    Establishing the pecking order: how many of our delegates would be texting during their annual appraisal with their boss? Or texting whilst in a meeting with a client?  It is often a form of "strutting behaviour" that is basically saying "Look at me, I'm more important……".

    or alternatively it could be that the training is genuinely unimportant and boring to boot!



  3. A couple of points

    I'm not sure we (Trainers) should decide what is and what isn't important to anyone. I often text as a delegate on courses because there is no course on earth that is 100% relevant to me so emailing and texting is a way of using that time that be otherwise spent doing a pointless activity or listening to a presentation that has no interest to me.

    Last week a friend of mine was on a "boring" course and spent most of the day MSN'ing me…the trainer thought she was taking a lot of notes.

    We are all expert "filterers" in our information overload world and I am the one that decides what I need, not the trainer.

    You can ban mobiles but you can't ban daydreaming or clock watching.

  4. Using ‘Notes’

    Sorry Steve, but I have to agree with Rus. If you're on a course, leave the phone alone for texting/emailing. we seem to be in an era where people panic if they are not in contact 24 hours. As a counterbalance, the other possibility is that people are using the notes app on their phone to take notes. A colleague of mine used to do that and I was very embarrassed until he told me what he was doing. In that instance, I think it is sensible to inform the trainer that's what you are doing. 

    I have been on seminars/presentations where the audience was invited to tweet whilst watching/listening to inform their networks and publicise the content.

  5. Sorry
    Nothing to be sorry for Sue…that’s what you think and that’s what I think.
    I am beginning to wonder if putting groups of people in a room all day has had its day?
    Reminds me of the Smash advert where the Marsians were laughing at Earthlings peeling potatoes.

  6. Considerations

    It’s a challenging dilemma Rus which raises a number of interesting issues. In 25 years I have only had one incident where I have had to intervene because of mobile phone use. It was just when mobiles were going main stream, roughly 20 years ago and the individual proudly had their phone on display. She then proceeded to take two phone calls, holding the conversation in front of the group. In those circumstances I think we can legitimately ask them to take it outside.

    For me there are a number of considerations that influence my stance in relation to mobile phone use whilst training. First, I think I recognised that business sometimes has to go on and the occasional (1-2) phone calls lasting a minute or two (taken outside) or the occasional text isn’t a big issue for me, I can tolerate it, though for myself as trainer I only do either outside of the programme.

    Like Steve my default position is that most people can make their own decision as to whether they can afford to absent themselves for a few minutes .At the same time I am also mindful that this ability to make this judgement is not universal. The Dunning-Kruger effect can be a danger. Essentially this is the effect of the unskilled person believing they are better than they really are, they miscalibrate their own competence. Further details here:

    In these circumstances the person sitting there believing they ‘know it all’ consequentially texting or surfing during the ‘boring bits’ is not making a sound decision and may well be missing the very parts of the course that could really help them. I have encountered this on Customer Care Skills course where the individuals concerned did not believe that particular content was relevant or helpful to them. Their behaviours and later displayed competence were clear evidence that this was not the case.

    I might also be tempted to intervene if the texting was distracting their fellow learners. Some texters have that annoying clicking sound as they enter each letter. If I witnessed this and saw that it was disturbing their colleagues I might ask them to put it on silent and if they couldn’t then wait until a convenient break.

    The other factor that I might also take into consideration is subject and context. I haven’t done any of this sort of training myself in years but some development is driven by legal or sector requirements. For example annual training of cabin crew to ensure they are fully conversant with emergency and first aid procedures. In those circumstances regardless of the target groups beliefs I do not suggest we rely on the individual’s judgement to decide which bits they need to listen to and which they do not. Would I really want someone undertaking triage assessment who skipped that bit while they sent their mates another hilarious cat video of YouTube? In these circumstances I would have zero tolerance to mobile phone from the outset, restricting their use to breaks and lunch times and I would also doubly recognise the essential demands on me to make the content relevant and important to them.

    And one final thought, when someone picks up their mobile and starts texting might this be a reflection on our training style? If we aren’t capturing their attention is it because they don’t care or is it because we aren’t sufficiently engaging? There could be elements of both issues here.

  7. Make the Learning experience central to the phone?

    You take a bull to water, but you may not be able to make it drink.

    People love their mobiles, they also love engaging learning. I don't care if someone uses their 'phone, they will respect me less if I act like a teacher, so bring it into the session!

    I look forward to the day when I make all my sessions central to phones and technolgoy devices as power point presentations are the most cringeworthy aspect of my role.

    Most learning applications are web based now and phones can browse!

  8. Garry, as always….

    …provides a detailed and considered answer!

    FYI I'm not draconian about delegate's use of mobiles; I ask politely at the beginning, if people would mind switching them off and if they need to keep them on, putting them on silent.  I have no great beef about the odd text receipt or sending, and am quite happy to let people take important calls outside the room….we are all adults after all.

    I would draw the line at a single delegate disrupting the event for everyone else, but in reality  the nearest to a "problem" I have every encountered was a delegate whose phone rang (the ringtone was Rolf Harris singing Waltzing Matilda) to his enormous embarrassment, in the middle of a very contentious role play debate.  He was defending his poor performance at the time and the other party ad libbed it brilliantly as further evidence of the man's incompetence!

    so actually maybe we should all leave our phones on instead!


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