Cell phones in the classroom: Who is to blame?

Drew Becker
Staff Writer

Most college students own a cell phone, as do I, and have the common courtesy to use them appropriately. I have, however, noticed as the years pass at Millersville, students have less and less courtesy for their peers, professors, and themselves. Many students just cannot seem to be disconnected for more than an hour at a time. I find this absurd.

texting-during-classI will admit I have texted in courses, but never to levels of disrespect. When I did text it was during a non-lecturing portion, for the most part. What I do not understand are students who choose to text in courses that professors explicitly ask students to keep phones away, especially when penalties to the final grade are communicated in the syllabus for cell phone use. Are students unable to resist the urge? Are we servants to our cell phones?

I understand when we have text messages that we are waiting on, like when we know a loved one is ill, in which updates are important to us. What I do not understand are students who show up to class and seem to be focused only on their phones while doing poorly in the course. Do these students not understand the direct correlation, or are they simply too connected to their device that they are unable to function an hour without?

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What I find most frustrating is professors who ban cell phone use in the course, which is understandable, but it seems to just cause many students to try to “conspicuously” text message. Some professors are hardliners about their policy and will penalize academically and eject the student for the day. Unfortunately, many state their policy and never enforce it.

Another frustrating element of anti-texting rules are that students come up with “genius” strategies to avoid being caught. The students fail to understand that professors are still going to know what the texting student is up to, or at the very least may be questioning why they have their hand(s) and eyes in their crotch for the majority of class.

I do understand why students are incentivized many times, as my studies in economics have taught me well. Many professors do have mandatory attendance along with their anti-texting rules and deliver lectures that, frankly, are not required if their goal is only to do well on tests. This causes many students to show up who have no interest in being there and appear only to avoid penalty. This is why I enjoy courses without mandatory attendance, but strict cell phone rules. This typically results in the distracting students staying out of the classroom, and respectful ones coming to class.

A policy a professor from another school enforced interested me. He stated on the first day that any reports of a student texting, made by another student, would result in extra credit for the reporter. He stated in the article that rates of texting quickly declined. Maybe if professors at Millersville created policies like these, those like myself would be relieved.

Unfortunately, for those like me who are easily distracted, students will likely have to deal with this throughout their education. Professors need to stop enforcing mandatory attendance, or increase enforcement of cell phone policies, if they want to be effective in eliminating distractions. Although it is frustrating, at least I can say I am not a servant to my cell phone.