Professors differ over class cell phone usage

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Professors differ over class cell phone usage


By Kimberly Bogers

Cell phones can be a touchy subject in classrooms, as many college students probably know from experience. It can be difficult to put away the phone and cut off communication with the outside world for an hour or two while in class, which is why many students check their phones while class is in progress.

While most standard class syllabi restrict or forbid the use of cell phones during class, some teachers differ over their enforcement of the rule.

Michael Johnston, a math professor at PSC, understands that his students sometimes need to take a phone call or respond to a text during class.

“I understand that I teach many nontraditional students with families and jobs that tend to be non-sympathetic to a college lifestyle. If they need to use their cell, they just need to politely step outside,” Johnston said.

While Johnston bans cell phone use inside of his classroom, he acknowledges that it’s sometimes a hard policy to enforce.

“Several years back I allowed a student to use a cell phone as a calculator on an exam because she stated she could not afford a calculator,” Johnston said. “When I walked around and looked at her paper her calculator app was on her phone with calculations. While I was walking [by] she received a text from someone stating, ‘no, it definitely is an even function! How can x^2 be odd?.'”

Cell phones make it easier than ever for students to cheat, which is why Jeremy Carr, also a math professor, bans phone use while taking exams.

When it comes to a student using the phone during class though, he does not mind as long as the student is not disruptive.

“My classes are very interactive,” Carr said. “We do a lot of group work and discussion of the material we are covering. It’s rare that the cell phones disrupt this type of interactive classroom environment. I remember having more problems with cell phones back years ago when most people were primarily talking on their cell phones. Now, it seems that most people text more than talking and so the cell phone activities have become quiet for the most part and less disruptive.”

Biology professor Neil Clark even encourages some cell phone usage during his labs.

“On occasion we use a couple of apps from smart phones in the lab and the students may use their phones for this purpose only, but [they] need to keep their cell phones on vibrate,” Clark said.

Clark feels that it would be very difficult to ban cell phones from classrooms entirely, since most students and teachers alike use cell phones daily. He does not allow cell phones to be used during exams, but they are acceptable on vibrate during normal class time.

Jessica Petersen, an anatomy and physiology professor at PSC, does not ban cell phone usage during her class but does not encourage it either.

“I will not stop a lecture if I see students texting because I do not believe in wasting the time of the other students that are paying attention and want to learn,” Petersen said. “If a student is texting during class then they are wasting their money, and it is not my responsibility to keep them on task.”

Petersen said that she will request students put away their phone if they are disruptive, and deduct points for audible texts or phone calls during an exam.

The usage of cell phones during class can be beneficial or distracting to students depending on the situation, which seems to be one of the primary reasons why some teachers are allowing it during class. One teacher even said that allowing students to bring their cell phones to class could teach them more about self-control, and how to prioritize, because it makes a student have to decide whether they should pay attention to the material and wait to text until after class, or text during class and miss out on some important information.

In the end, it is ultimately up to the student to decide whether or not to check their phone under their desk, or slip it into their backpack until later.