Coping with Smart Phone 'Distractions' in a College Classroom

By Langmia, Kehbuma; Glass, Amy | Teaching Journalism & Mass Communication, Winter 2014 | Go to article overview

Coping with Smart Phone 'Distractions' in a College Classroom


Langmia, Kehbuma, Glass, Amy, Teaching Journalism & Mass Communication


The influx of smart phones in most college classroom is impacting instruction in a way that was never anticipated. Thus, a survey of full-time faculty members at a local university in the United States was conducted to test three hypotheses, followed by a one-on-one interview with a random sample of the same respondents to ascertain the effect of smart phones in the classroom. Results showed conflicting approaches by faculty on how to handle the situation. While some faculty members use smart phones for pedagogic reasons and experience positive results, most of them apply strict classroom phone policy with little success. Thus, a university social media tolerant policy for everyone to abide by in the 21st century seems to be the solution.

Keywords: smart phones, social media, classroom distractions, texting, blogging

Introduction

This study is motivated by the attempt to reg- ulate smart phone obsession by students in a classroom environment. Experience has shown that when students are allowed to bring these gadgets into the classroom, there is disturbance, distraction, disorder when they go off and when students pay more attention to them than the lectures. But at the same time, some studies have shown that integrating smart phones into the curriculum can positively affect teacher-student interaction. This study attempts to decipher fac- ulty perception and seek common approaches to accommodate mobile technology in the college classroom.

Electronic media production and subsequent consumption has peaked in the last decade to the extent that smart phones have become ubiqui- tous in most college classrooms. This has com- plicated student-teacher interaction within the confines of the classroom environment. What is seemingly disturbing is the fact that generation "Yers" and "Zers" are not only glued to electronic media, they typify it (Kennedy, Judd, Church- ward, Gray, & Krause, 2008; Lenhart, Purcell, Smith, & Zickuhr, 2010; Moeller, Powers, & Roberts, 2012). It would appear 'multi-tasking' has become the buzz word to describe this sort of phenomenon and educational authorities are scrambling to look for solutions especially in cases where retentive memories of the students are affected adversely (Litchfield, Raban, Dyson, Leigh, & Tyler, 2009; McLane, 2012).

Studies have shown (Baker, Lusk, & Neu- hauser, 2012; Tremblay, 2010; Milrad & Spikol, 2007; Wang, Wu, & Wang, 2009) that students respond favorably to new technological inno- vations and that the trend is likely to continue unabated in the foreseeable future. Many schools of higher learning are looking for coping mecha- nisms to keep pace with the voracious needs of these young millennials. Therefore, educators must adapt and understand new technology as well. This is what has inspired this study. More often than not, a faculty member is often torn between strict enforcement of banning the mobile phones entirely or restricting their use for emergency proposes only. Other faculty mem- bers welcome them in the classroom and make students use them accordingly during lecture. These three camps of liberal, moderate and con- servative faculty member approaches to smart phone use in the college classroom, and the lack of consistent policies on how to enforce the rule, constitute the thrust of this study. Surveys and follow-up interviews with full-time faculty mem- bers at a local university in the Eastern Region of the United States of America were the appropri- ate means to get an unbiased view on this issue.

This study, therefore, examines the role of smart phones in the classroom setting during lecture. Students mostly have their smart phones on the desk, on their bags or on their laps in the classroom as lectures are in progress. Depending on the policy, put in place either by the insti- tution or by the professor-mostly through the syllabus-students, more often than not, are allowed to put their phones on vibrate or switch off mode completely depending on the circum- stances. …

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