Professors find many cons to cell phone use in class
Published: Thursday, October 4, 2012
Updated: Friday, October 5, 2012 15:10
Cellphones are becoming more common in college society, but some faculty have mixed feelings about their students using them in classrooms.
Professor of criminal justice and sociology Stephen Light said cellphones can be considered another type of technology, like a computer. They have their pros and cons in the classroom setting, he said. For example, professors are able to conduct polls in class by connecting student cellphones to the computer.
However, cellphones can be disruptive if students excessively text in class, Light said.
“In my classes, I don’t have a strict policy on it,” Light said. “I find that if it gets to be a problem I raise the issue in class.”
Light said it would not be conducive to ban cellphone use in schools because he thinks each professor should have his or her own policy on the use of phones in class. Plattsburgh State does not have a strict policy on the use of cellphones, rather, the decision is left to the individual instructors.
According to a PEW study titled “Teens and Mobile Phones,” 65 percent of cellphone owning-teens bring their phones to schools that ban the devices. The study also found that 43 percent of all teens who take their phones to school say they text in class at least once a day.
Light said people single out cellphones as another nuisance that needs to be dealt with. However, there is no good reason not to ban phones, he said. Students may have a family emergency, so they would need to keep the phones on. Students may need to get in contact with the authorities in case of danger, he said.
Studies have found the benefits smartphones bring to the table for students.
According to an article on onlinecollege.org, a website about online colleges, there are more school districts making use of smartphones in the classrooms.
For example, the Onslow County School District in North Carolina employ a program called Project K-Nect which uses smartphones as a means to improving standardized math scores, the article said.
Another report done by studyblue.com, a website designed to help students excel in their studies, found that students who with smartphones are twice as likely to study between 6 and 8 a.m. The study found that mobile studiers study 40 more minutes each week everywhere they go.
For some professors, the pros of using cellphones in class rooms do not always outweigh the cons.
Light said the cons of cellphone use in classes are many. For one, they can be disruptive. Students checking their text messages in class can be distracting to instructors and other students.
Sociology professor Dr. Lauren Eastwood said there are no pros to having cell phones in classes. She agreed that students checking their devices in class can be distracting to other students.
“I think it influences the classroom dynamic,” Eastwood said. “I am more concerned about students being distracted.”
Eastwood said it gets to be annoying to have to always tell students to put their phones away in class, so she may not always call a student out on it. It becomes distracting to other students when a classmate is texting because they may wonder why the professor is not calling the student telling the student to put their phone away. The students’ attention wanders to the classmate texting rather than staying focused on the lesson. She said she loses her train of thought if she has to stop in the middle of the lesson to tell a student to stop texting. In this way, it is always distracting for her.
Eastwood said she thinks looking up information on smartphones in class is distracting, as well. Sometimes it is quicker but does not make sense because she teaches in smart rooms with the projector programmed to the computer. Any information from the internet can be displayed to the class via the projector, she said.
“Using smartphones in class to look up information is less directed and more chaotic,” Eastwood said.
Biology professor Daniel Vogt said he does not outright forbid cellphones in the classroom, but he does have a clause on his syllabus that states, “The use of electronic devices is not permitted in class without the permission from the instructor.”
It does get distracting to students when they see others texting in class, Vogt said.
Vogt said he has never faced hostility from students when he does ask them to put their phones away. If he does notice a student texting in class, he asks him or her to put the phone away. If the student says he or she has a family emergency, Vogt backs off and gives that student their space, he said.
Unfortunately, cellphones have already become a norm in society, Eastwood said. “We (professors) get really tired of telling students to put their phones away. One moment you are in the middle of a sentence trying to make sense to the students and then you see a student texting,” Eastwoord said.
There should be a better culture on campus about when it is and is not appropriate to use cellphones, Eastwood said.
Smartphones are counterproductive when they come into classrooms, Eastwood said.
“I can’t think of a reason why my colleagues and I would want them in the class,” she said. “I don’t think we have to incorporate all of the technology. Learning doesn’t always mean using the most cutting edge technology.”