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A CELLULAR DIVIDING LINE

Students support cellphones in class more than profs do

On February 6, 2018

BY OLANZO PALMER, LAUREN SHARKEY and GERALD BLACKSHEAR

VN STAFF WRITERS

You see them in classes all across campus – students using cellphones.

But should they?

“I think if it’s used as a tool to help the student learn, it can be great,” said Dr. Lori Glenn, clinical associate professor in McAuley School of Nursing. “We can actually do things like quizzes on cellphones.”

Of course, many students aren’t doing school work on their phones.

They’re texting, deploying apps and checking social media.

“I do find that it can be distracting,” Glenn added. “I think that each professor has to use good judgment to help students make the right decision. But you’re college students and you’re adults, so you’re paying to be there, and if you want to pay to be there and look at your phone, then I guess there’s not much that we can do.”

Communications professor Joe Abisaid agrees that it’s “not a good idea.”

“Students are too distracted by them,” he said.

But a ban on phones would be difficult to enforce.

Plus, there could be a benefit, he said.

“In theory, at least one student should have a cellphone out in case there is an emergency,” he noted.

Ashley Flinn is an academic coordinator assistant at Calihan Hall.

She said that though phones can be educational tools, most students don’t use them that way.

She sees phones as keeping students from focusing.

She advises staying off Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat during class.

“Things could get done a lot faster,” she said. “I understand that students sometimes need a break from what they are working on and want to check their phones. In moderation, I have no problem with that. But when they are always doing it, that’s when I get annoyed.”

Yvonne King directs academic and student affairs in the College of Health Professions. She has a background in mental health and addictions counseling, and has noticed the increasing use of cellphones in classrooms.

 “People in general, young people especially, have a fascination with technology,” she said. “College students view their cell phones as an integral part of who they are, and it is really an extension of themselves. They need their cellphones to maintain their relationships, and many of them have no idea what it is like not to live with their cellphones.”

Research shows that social media has become a significant part of student life, she said.

It’s become so prevalent that they hardly notice it anymore.

“Students don’t realize how dependent they are on their cellphones,” she said.

Surveys indicate that six in ten U.S. college students feel addicted to their cellphones, she said.

“Anything that produces a pleasurable sensation has the potential of becoming addictive,” King said. “When you begin to lose control over that behavior, when it starts to become a distraction, when you spend too much time with it, when you can’t be separated from it without feeling anxiety – that is an essential element of any addiction.”

Nathan Blume is a first-year adjunct professor teaching in digital media studies.

“I think it’s impossible to remove all the technology from a classroom anymore,” he said. “It’s been quite a few years since we didn’t need the technology to do the basic work.”

He said students take notes on their devices, which are getting smaller. Many students now prefer tablets over laptops.

“The distraction is no better or worse than with a computer,” he said. “Students that have their computers open to take notes also have Facebook open and whatever other apps, because our computers can basically do everything our phones can do and vice versa.”

Blume said that unless professors plan on running old-school classrooms “where people are expected to take notes with a pencil and paper,” they need to trust students to use their time wisely.

“To some extent, if they want to chat with their friends on Facebook instead of paying attention, they’re the ones that are going to get a grade that reflects how much they paid attention,” he said.

Not surprisingly, students view the cellphone issue a bit differently.

Sophomore Taylor Cloutier believes that in college the decision should be left to students because they’re paying to attend classes.

“I understand the ideas behind prohibiting cell phone use,” she said. “Professors want to feel respected and as though the students are listening. However, they must understand that the vast majority of our generation has been brought up with technology.”

Today’s students are able “to take in every word spoken while sending a message to someone,” she said.

It can be comforting for students away from home to connect with family and friends, she said.

 “All in all, if students feel they can get the information they need out of the class while using their phones during class, it should be their own decision – with no disrespect intended towards the professor,” Cloutier said.

Some students just get bored in class.

“I find myself distracted from time to time by my cellphone,” said John Keep, a digital media studies senior. But “the classes I find myself using my cellphone in are usually the boring ones, and the phone gives me something interesting to do.”

He admits, however, he could probably do better in those classes.

Jonathan Zhu is also a senior in digital media studies.

“I’m not distracted by my phone,” he said, “because I deleted most of the distracting apps off of my phone.”

Zhu said he can download Facebook and Instagram apps again if he misses them.

William Mende, a criminal justice major, tries not to check his phone in class so as not to miss key points.

“When you miss notes for being on your phone, it’s not like you can just ask the professor what you missed because they’re going to hit you with ‘You should’ve been paying attention’,” he said. “And I just don’t want to go through all that.”

He said he isn’t distracted when other students use their phones.

“I’m not their dad so it’s not like I’m going to tell them to get off,” he said.

Some students feel they can be on their phones, listen and take notes at the same time.

“If you can multi-task and take your notes and get your work done, it shouldn’t really be a problem,” said Josh McFolley, a junior. 

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