Nothing smart about phones in class

By Jean Oliver — Nexus-Camosu College (CUP)

Lately, I’ve been thinking that the only way I will be able to finish my degree is online. Ironically, endless smartphone- and Internet-related classroom distractions wouldn’t be a problem there.

It boggles my mind that students can be so cavalier about their access to their teachers. Many people would gladly take a seat in the classroom if they had the chances that many students seem to take for granted. Ignoring teachers and staying focused on phones is not a smart use of anyone’s time.

But why do so many instructors do nothing to stop this distracting behaviour? Many teachers I’ve watched are intimidated and unable to enforce their expectations of students paying attention. It’s uncomfortable when a teacher resorts to the old-fashioned guilt trip by publicly shaming an individual over internet or phone use.

Students say they need to stay connected to what’s going on. They say smartphone use is a habit. They say there’s an element of risk involved in texting during class. Some justify it as a respite from boring classes.

Well, I say you’re in the wrong class. Boredom is the result of a resistance to learning.
The desire to stay connected can be overwhelming, but we shouldn’t confuse needs with wants. If students truly need to check on a friend or be available for an email about a job, they have no business being in class.

The problem is getting worse. One of my recent classes was so noisy, the instructor was barely able to convey complex ideas over the din of crosstalk. Add to that the strobe lights of flickering Facebook images and the dance of nodding heads over cell phones and, well, focusing in class becomes about as easy as hearing someone give a lecture in a night club.

Now, that would be boring.