Today: Mar 03, 2024

Electronics in the classroom—friend or foe?

Elizabeth Dishian, Bailey Brumbach, Heather Franci, Freddy Heredia – Special to The Southern News

Students have enough trouble keeping their concentration in class without the use of cell phones, said Lauren Carlucci, a senior liberal studies major.

“It’s distracting if someone is using his or her phone when you’re trying to pay attention in class,” said Carlucci. “If you have an emergency [and need to use your phone], then leave the classroom.”

Professors have the right to tell students in their classes that they need to put their cell phones away, said Andrew Chu, graduate intern for Judicial Affairs.

“I, personally,” said professor Armen Marsoobian, the philosophy department chairperson at Southern Connecticut State University, “do not allow cell phone use in the classroom because [the students] need to be concentrating on what is going on in the class.”

Although Marsoobian said he has a smart phone himself and uses it “all day,” he said that cell phones in the classroom could be more of an undesirable distraction and hindrance to learning than a beneficial learning tool.

Michael Shea, English department chairperson and president of American Association of University Professors, said he thinks cell phone use in the classroom can be constructive if using them to look up information when a question arises during a class discussion but that they are a disturbance most of the time.

“They’re distracting and rude,” said Shea, “but only when a student is using it rather than paying attention to all the other students or the instructor.”

Judicial Affairs would possibly see more incidents if cell phones are allowed in the classroom, said Catharine Barber, graduate intern for Judicial Affairs, especially with more students owning iPhones and other smart phones.

“I don’t think it’s beneficial for students to be allowed to use their phones in class,” said Chu. “Out of sight, out of mind. If you don’t have access [then] you will be less likely to be distracted.”

If cell phones are allowed in class it will increase disruptions, but it’s hard to say what the exact implications of cellphone use would be, said Chu.

“Personally, as a student, it would be a distraction,” said Chu. “I’m not a fan when phones start ringing in class and it changes my attention.”

Professors at Southern, annoyed by cell phone disruptions, will normally call a student out on cell phone use during their class time, said Carlucci.

Linda Cunningham, membership services coordinator for the AAUP, said although she is not a teacher, the fate of cell phone usage in the class depends on the class and the way teachers would use them.

“The professors should let students know in advance as of what those policies are with use of cell phones in the class,” said Cunningham. “I think if it’s part of their syllabus, then it works with the way the class is. How professors conduct their classes is by giving them academic freedom. As long as the department doesn’t disagree with it, then it is up to the professors.”

With most teachers always instructing students to put away phones during the class time and to resist the temptations of seeing a recent missed call, a text, going onto Facebook and Twitter or other social media, the debate continues whether cell phones can be integrated into teachers’ lesson plans.

“I think as time goes on you’ll see more of a limiting use to use your cellphone, not allowing the use,” said Chu. “We’ve had previous incidents with students emailing notes to themselves for during a test or having students take pictures of the answers and sending it to themselves for the test as well.”

If students were able to openly be on their cell phones during class the first thing that students might be thinking is, “What ways can I cheat?” said Barber.

“There are multiply ways in which students cheat,” said Chu. “Possibly there would number of students cheating [with the allowed use of their cell phones].”

Prohibiting the use of cell phones in class is not written into the student code of conduct, said Chu. It’s up to the discretion of the professor.

Marsoobian said the philosophy department as a whole does not have a specific policy regarding the permitting or discouraging of cell phone usage in class, but “generally speaking, most of my colleagues” discourage the use of phones while class is in session because of the premise that students cannot focus to learn and be fully attentive while playing with or using their phones.

“With the cell phone, I see it as a distraction,” said Marsoobian, “and students shouldn’t be texting in class.”

Therese Bennett, chairperson of the math department, said she thinks cell phones are distracting and she has not found good use for them in the classroom, although she said she wouldn’t be surprised if smart phones have applications that are valuable to math.

“It is as distracting as having a student fall asleep in class,” said Bennett. “It is mostly distracting because I know that the student is not paying attention to what is going on during the class.”

Bennett said the math department does not have a policy on cell phone use in class, but she does for her students.

“I do not allow students to use a cell phone during class and a student caught using a cell phone or other electronic device other than an approved calculator during an exam will lose points on the exam,” said Bennett. “If a student has a legitimate reason why he or she needs to have a cell phone out during class, he or she is asked to speak to me about the specific reasons.”

Claire Novosad, psychology chairperson, said she doesn’t think cellphones in a classroom can be useful.

“At the present time, my answer would be no to them being beneficial—as every student would have to have one—and not everyone can afford to have unlimited internet access, etc. But,” said Novosad, “if everyone did, I could see viewing clips from YouTube, science and news sites or listening to podcasts—especially for group work—as being helpful. There are some great clips out there.”

While there is not a main policy of cell phone usage for the entire university, it is up to the departments to regulate the use of cell phones. According to the student policies in the Department of Nursing, cell phones and other electronic devices are not allowed at all during class or laboratories.

Lisa Rebeschi, Nursing Department chairperson, said the Nursing Department does not have specific policies on cell phones but does think they can be beneficial.

“Our students are often out at various clinical sites,” said Rebeschi. “Some of these clinical sites have specific policies regarding the use or non-use of cell phones on medical units. I believe cell phones can be of much benefit during class. There are a number of apps that students can use to facilitate their learning. Additionally, they provide real-time access to the internet.”

Shea, who is in the middle of running for his second term as president of AAUP, said the use of cell phones in the classrooms have both positive and negative sides.

“I think it’s a complicated issue. On the one hand, [cell phones] can be a useful learning tool if you want students to do something with it. On the other hand, it could be a distraction if you do not want your students to do something with it,” said Shea. “So what I generally ask [students] to do in my syllabus is I say, ‘No cell phones in class.’”

The use of cell phones in the classroom is still in a beginning stage, but Shea says a line must be drawn if there are going to be more teachers including phones in their lesson plans. Shea agrees that he can see them being used more in the future.

Students would abuse the use of cell phones in the classroom as well, said Barber.

“I think the issues will be the students who sit on [cell phones] in class,” said Chu, “and play games like ‘Words With Friends’ or ‘Draw Something,’ instead of paying attention to the professor.”

“As a future educator,” said Carlucci, “I would hate if they allowed the use of cell phones in the classroom.”

Laptops could possibly be a better way of communicating in the classroom instead of cell phones, said Carlucci.

However, Marsoobian also said there could be certain instances where he thinks cell phones could be used as a positive learning tool.

“If there is a specific activity that you’re engaging in with the class, and there comes a point when every single person has a smart phone, then you could be throwing out kinds of questions that they need to use the smart-phone for outside sources,” said Marsoobian. “Students could even exchange writing that they have done through maybe a drop-box [application] or send as an attachment directly from the phone.”

Marsoobian said cell phones could also be used for a new and creative implement for assisting and working with other students.

“You can have students collaborating with other students who aren’t even in the room,” said Marsoobian. “Of course, we can already do some of this kind of thing with laptops and iPads or tablets.”

Marsoobian said he sees some of the positive advantages for cell phone usage within the classroom, but feels that computers and tablets are more beneficial for students from an academic perspective.

Phones are simply a temptation and a means of interruption through the ability they have to send text messages, said Marsoobian.

“I think the cell phone, because of its size with the compact screen, isn’t as useful as a computer or tablet,” said Marsoobian. “I think the tablet is going to be much more ubiquitous in the classroom.”

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