Thursday, December 2, 2010

Text messaging: a lecture hall epidemic?

This month a study was released that examined the in-class texting habits of students from Wilkes University. Two psychology professors created a 32 question survey to study the texting habits of this Pennsylvania University. The survey was answered by 269 students and the results were very alarming to many professors. Over 95% of participants said that they bring their phones to class and 3/4 of the survey noted that they had been distracted in class by a ringing or vibrating phone. Deborah Tindell, one of the professors who created the survey, noted “It’s becoming a bigger issue as cell phones are changing...Technology has changed pretty drastically in the past few years. … You used to have some proficient texters, and that was it. Now, almost everyone does it.”
Nine in ten students in the study said that have sent and received text messages during class. A very small portion of these students, however, believe that professors should allow unlimited texting in class as long as it does not disrupt the learning of other students.
Alarmingly, "Research from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project shows that half of teenagers surveyed send 1,500 text messages a month, and one-third of survey respondents send 100 texts every day, or 3,000 per month."
Another professor at the University argued that students who text frequently in class should automatically receive failing grades in the class despite their scores on papers and tests.

I have very mixed feelings about this article. On one hand, it can be very frustrating when there is a person sitting next to me in class who is texting profusely on a phone with loud clicking buttons that vibrates or makes a noise every time they receive a text. This person is unlikely to be paying attention to the professor and is becoming an obvious distraction to people around them. Conversely, many students check their phones once or twice a class and type short responses and then put their phone away. Oftentimes, this can be done without creating a distraction or detracting the student from what is going on during class. I am very guilty of the later habit, however, I feel as though this behavior is becoming a normalized part of our culture. Outside of class, students are connected to their friends 24/7 via text messaging and Facebook. For example, my best friend goes to school in Carbondale but I talk to her nearly all day using text messaging, Facebook posts and Skype. When we are so connected to others using cellular devices at all times, it seems nearly impractical to not respond to them just because we are in class. I never respond to my friends to be rude to my classmates or because I am bored in the class, but rather because I am so used to responding and people in our generation typically expect an immediate response when they sent a text message.
When I look at this topic from the perspective of a future educator, I can see how this behavior would be undeniably frustrating. I imagine that it is also very distracting for professors to look into their crowd of students and see them all ignoring the lecture and texting instead. I completely disagree with the professor who strongly believed that students who text deserve a failing grade automatically. I feel as though there are better ways to handle the situation than throwing and "F" at the student. The professor could easily pull the student aside and ask them to cease their in- class texting. If the student is not compliant, then the professor can enforce more serious consequences. The survey even mentioned that if professors set a "no texting" rule in their syllabus during the first class period, students will be extremely respectful of the professors wishes. Personally, when I know that a professor will not tolerate texting, I do not look at my phone for the entire period. When a professor does not set this president, however, most students do not feel as though they are restricted.
Overall, I think that very brief texting in class is not a serious issues. Sometimes there might be an important situation that a student needs to deal with in the moment. However, texting can get very out of hand when students spend their entire class period texting, are not paying attention to the professor and are distracting other students.