Cellphones provide benefits, distractions
Published: Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, November 9, 2011 17:11
Cellphones provide a connection to the world with the tap of a screen.
But they also draw attention away from the immediate environment, which is why many professors do not allow use of any mobile devices in their classrooms.
"They're a distraction, a major distraction," English professor Judith Saunders said. "If (students) are (texting) they're missing out on what's being said."
Having grown up with cellphones, most students are used to the general etiquette of using phones at school and do not make calls during class, but the accessibility to people outside of the classroom can be tempting.
"People are obviously not talking (on phones in class)," Saunders said. "Texting under the table is possible."
Texting is one method of communication, but students have another way of checking and updating news: social media.
"Most likely it's Facebook," undecided major Pon Boonpeng said.
But cell phone use in the class is not all bad. It has its benefits, at the right time.
"I know professors ask if someone has a smart phone or Blackberry or whatever to check up on statistics," Boonpeng said.
The nearly endless uses of current phones include calculators, word processing and dictionaries – all tools for the classroom.
"iPhones today have a lot of apps," English as a second language professor Ellen Smith said. "One is a dictionary, either bilingual or English/non-English dictionary. I do see students using the apps in class. That's OK."
Students know not to use a phone in class and some speak out to make it a rule to ban them from the class.
"On day one we make rules together. What we need to do to have a comfortable learning environment," Smith said. "Students say turn off cell phones, so that's one of the rules."
Furthermore, students know when they will be punished for using a phone in class and try to hide it, but their body language draws attention to their distraction.
Smith said she usually can tell who is using a phone for class and who is talking to someone outside of it.
"Usually when someone is texting, it is on their lap or under their desk," she said. "A dictionary, it's right in front. They're not trying to hide anything."
But some teachers, even those who recognize the benefits of smart phone technology, disallow it all together in their classrooms.
"My policy is cell phones turned off before entering the classroom," English professor Fritz Pointer said. "The greater the use of communication devices (and) technology, the (more) grades suffer."
Pointer, who has an iPhone, said the new technology is a powerful tool, but needs to be used appropriately.
"I'm sympathetic. There is a use for it — a dictionary, Google — they are very useful tools when used in the appropriate setting. The classroom is not an appropriate setting," he said.
"The new iPhone takes dictation and will print documents. That's serious technology and could be of help to students," Pointer said. "But knowing when to use it and not disrupt the professor (is important). Students have a hard time detaching from it."
Pointer said he thinks of a poem when referring to students using social media and communication technology at school.
"Amiri Baraka, the poet, said, ‘Though your mind may be somewhere else, your ass ain't,'" Pointer said. "Your behind is in the classroom, pay attention and listen."