By Kristen Abell
What is tech etiquette (and why is that so darn hard to say? I tried to think of something catchier – techtiquette, maybe? – but that’s not any easier, and sounds like it could even be a bit dirty)? There are plenty of posts and articles out there on netiquette, cell phone etiquette, email etiquette, etc., but many of them were written pre-Twitter or other social media tools – or at least don’t reflect them. They were also probably written pre-tablets, too. So is it time to create some new etiquette rules for the emerging media and technology available?
Or, as is sometimes the case at my institution, is the only acceptable etiquette to not use it in meetings, talk about it as little as possible, and generally act like it doesn’t exist? I think this is also what faculty who ask students to not use laptops, cell phones, tablets, etc. in classes are doing – rather than finding ways to engage those students (whether with those tech tools or without) – they ban them so that even if they aren’t engaging, the students have no choice but to pay attention…or fall asleep.
How can we start encouraging faculty to use these tools in their classrooms if we can’t even figure out how they can be useful in our day-to-day meetings? This isn’t to say we have to use them for every single meeting, but I can guarantee you that there are some meetings in where me doodling on my notepad is infinitely more acceptable than my colleague typing up notes, sending work email, scheduling meetings, or doing 500 other tasks related to the meeting and/or work on their laptop. There are many times where before a meeting is done, I could have completed all the tasks set before me if just given access to my laptop or tablet, but since that’s frowned upon, instead I have spend that time writing out all my to-dos on a notepad, and then I will spend another half-hour to hour actually doing them outside of a meeting. When will we learn that just because we can work efficiently during meetings doesn’t mean we can’t pay attention?
On the other hand, how do you explain to the colleague that never looks up from their laptop/tablet/smartphone that they might as well not have come to the meeting if they’re not going to engage at all? Where do you draw the line?
Unfortunately, I believe that techtiquette, like netiquette before it, is determined mostly by those in power at the time. If the big boss says don’t get out your laptop, mine’s going to stay in my bag. But that doesn’t mean when I run meetings I’ll run them the same way.
What are the “techtiquette” rules at your institution? Do you have any hard and fast rules? More flexible rules? How can you make “techtiquette” work for you?