I’ve previously written an article sharing tips on working with students in the computer lab. One relatively minor issue, though, that I sometimes still have to contend with is a small number of students “sneaking” to an ethnic music page (Spanish, Vietnamese, etc.) and listening to it when they are working on their assignment.

Of course, with mainstream students that’s not a big deal and, in fact, for some students it can actually help their concentration. For English Language Learners, however, listening to the audio support for text is critical.

Yes, yes, yes, I know the argument that if the assignment is engaging enough, then they won’t want to listen their music. However, I live in the real world, and not all assignments are equally engaging to all students all the time (and, believe me, the vast majority of my students will tell you our work is pretty darn engaging).

This is a problem with a tiny number of students.

The reason I’m writing about this today is because of a guest column written by researcher Dan Ariely in The Wall Street Journal today — Why We Lie. It’s an excerpt from his newest book.

In one experiment, he found that if people are reminded of their moral values they are far less likely to cheat. In his study, they were reminded of the Ten Commandments.

I’ve found that when I remember to apply my own version of that method — before we head to the lab, I take less than a minute to remind people why it’s important to listen to the English audio for their own development and because I want to be able to trust them — it’s hardly ever an issue. After that 40 second “spiel,” I also ask people to raise their hands if they commit to staying only on the assigned sites.

So, I’m going to make a redoubled effort to make my “old shriveled brain” (as a student referred to it earlier this year 🙂 remember to include that in our lab routine.

Interestingly, whether I give this talk or not, this is hardly ever an issue when I bring a laptop cart into the room. I wonder what the difference is? Any ideas?

How do you handle this issue with your students?