Ask the Experts: Working Phones into Class

My students are glued to their phones. Instead of constantly fighting them over this, I wonder if I could work it into class. Any ideas?

I had a strict no-phone policy in my dance classes, but a recent field trip changed my mind. I took my high school choreography class to see a show where the audience was free to roam about the performance space. We were encouraged to take pictures and videos and post them to social media throughout the performance. My students’ phones were out and ready before the house manager could finish her announcements! As the performance unfolded, I watched them compose some amazing pictures. They had a great time looking at the piece from all angles and documenting it.

Afterward, it gave us discussion material. We talked about how different compositions communicate different intentions. Now, when we watch each other’s work in class, we use our phones to choose how to view the dance and give the choreographer a peek at his or her work from other angles. My students have been inspired to find new ways to compose their own dances.

My students also decided to create a class Instagram account so they could share their photos. (We all know the password, but I monitor what happens.) This keeps the process alive outside the class. A bonus for those with the new iPhone 6S: It has a feature called Live Photos that records video of a few moments before and after your photo to give it a bit of context.

Barry Blumenfeld teaches at the Friends Seminary in New York City. He is an adjunct professor at New York University and on faculty at the Dance Education Laboratory of the 92nd Street Y.

Photo courtesy of Barry Blumenfeld

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