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Put the phone down and pay attention in class

(Katherine Mayo)

Texting in class: we’ve all done it. It’s a normal occurrence in college classrooms. Whether it’s a lecture or a seminar, we all know of occasions where someone in the class was texting or playing a game on their phone. It is easier to get away with texting in a lecture, and it’s understandable that some people get bored. According to a recent study, more than 90 percent of students admit to using their phone in class for non-class related activities. But I’ve even seen many people openly texting in my classes of less than 30 people.

Almost all of my professors (past and current) have had clear rules prohibiting cellphones. But some actively enforce the rule, while others will passively make note of who was texting and mark them down in their gradebook.

Increasingly, over my past three years at the University of Massachusetts, I have observed more and more blatant texting in class. Some try to hide their phones while sending a message, but the usage of phones in class is very high. The study mentioned previously found that undergraduates use their phone on average 11 times a day in class. This perceived multitasking actually distracts students and creates very unproductive habits.

This behavior isn’t just distracting to our learning environment, but it is extremely disrespectful to your professors and your peers. College is increasingly becoming more expensive, and your time isn’t well spent in a classroom if you’re on your phone for the whole class. You are paying to take classes here and your professors are here to help you learn. By ignoring them and showing no interest in class, you are defeating the whole purpose of attending a class in the first place. Some professors are taking notice, and expressing their displeasure. Professors put a lot into their lectures and classes to ensure that students are benefiting from them—so it’s only fair to give them the respect they deserve.

Jeremiah Patterson, a professor at American University, put it simply: “Look, we all have phones and we all have conversations we want to continue throughout the day. We also tend to juggle a lot of things at once—digitally too. So while I’m empathetic to all of that, I’d like students to at least focus on our discussions and lectures. They should treat these parts of class like a business meeting: one or two texts might be ok and firing off an email is acceptable, but the bulk of your time should be spent focusing on what’s in front of you.”

Checking your phone while your peers are speaking or giving a presentation is not very respectful to all of the hard work that they are putting in, and you would want others to pay attention if you were the one presenting. How are you supposed to absorb and learn properly if your attention is elsewhere?

When you’re on your phone or on your computer during class, you are more likely to have lower grades than peers who focus in class—and you will have to study longer. Multitasking really does impact your learning, even if you think it’s making you more efficient. Instead, waiting to send those texts or that email may benefit you a lot more in the long-run.

I’m afraid that this behavior is on the rise, and that students are less and less likely to be able to go an entire class without having their phone on their desk and checking it. By allowing students to get away with this behavior, we are allowing the habit to solidify in this generation. The mere fact that apps exist, such as PocketPoints, which reward students for not touching their phone during class, shows the extent of this problem. Being on your phone constantly does not prepare you well for the real world—in the workforce, you have to be engaged and focused.

Professors should impose cellphone bans or start cracking down on students who are on their phone instead of paying attention. Putting your phone away for 50 minutes will not lead to the end of the world. Just put it in your backpack or purse on silent, then don’t touch it for the entire class. Try using an app like PocketPoints if you need to. I know that it can be extremely tempting since we have grown up in a digitally connected culture, but your brain, your grades, your professors and your peers will thank you later.

Emilia Beuger is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at ebeuger@umass.edu.

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