Dumbphones

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VICTORIA (CUP) – Lately, I’ve been thinking that the only way I will be able to finish my degree is online. Ironically, there, I’d be free from endless smartphone- and Internet-related classroom distractions.

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 even half the chances 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 to themselves by saying the class is boring.

Well, I say you’re in the wrong class. In my book, boredom is the result of a resistance to learning.

The desire to stay connected can be overwhelming, but we shouldn’t confuse a need with a want. 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.

I’m not just talking about etiquette here. The brain can only take so much stress before it leaks illness out into the physical body. Turning off the Internet for a two-hour class may be more than good manners; it might just save you from a heart attack or ulcer down the road.

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 into 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.

Jean Oliver
The Nexus (Camosun College)

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