Earlier today I read this study conducted at the University of New Hampshire about college students’ cell phone usage in class. A shocking (to me, at least) 91% of college students acknowledged checking their cell phones in class between 1 and 5 times. The most common uses of the phones in class were a clock and texting. The study found cell phone usage in class negatively affected students’ concentration.
Pretend to be surprised by that news.
Back in my day, classrooms were outfitted with clocks. Of course, back in my day, I also walked to class uphill both directions. I’m only kind of kidding. If you’ve ever been to Athens, Ohio, you understand.
The study did give me pause. It’s been almost nine years since I graduated with my Bachelors degree. At the time I graduated, my classmates and I were just getting our first cell phones. My first cell phone did not have a camera or a keyboard.
Texting was a luxury rather than a staple of a cell plan. My in-class distractions were pretty limited: making to do lists, updating my day planner, working discreetly on tasks for student organizations. I didn’t have technology readily accessible connecting me with friends on campus and afar. Even in my journalism classes, often held in computer labs, the Internet accessibility was limited with many non-essential sites being blocked.
I spend a lot of time talking with students about their academic performance and classroom experiences. The lesson that stands out? Over the course of (only!) nine years, my own classroom experience has become almost obsolete. Instead of trying to compare my undergraduate education with theirs, I need to understand the ways this readily accessible technology changes what they expect from the classroom and, ideally, help them find ways to integrate the technology into education rather than distraction.With a good push from the right people and use of the right technology, those cell phones can enhance learning and connect students with the course materials.
Do you teach classes? What are your policies on cell phone usage in the classroom? Have you found innovative ways to encourage appropriate use?