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Technology Distractions: E-Media Profs Weigh In

Class is in session and a student’s cell phone rings. Another student’s eyes are glued to Facebook, still another is rapidly firing off texts.

The E-Media Division has no overarching rules about cell phone and laptop use in class. Each professor must find their own way to handle the distractions. For some professors, the solution is a strict no cellphone policy. Professor Raul Barcelona drops a student’s grade by a half letter for texting or social networking in class.

“When your time is fractured and divided between text messages, chats and other distractions, you are not focusing your attention and your creativity,” Professor Barcelona said. Professor Peter DePietro’s policy is even stricter. Students will be asked to leave class upon the first infringement. A second offense will result in a failing grade.

Other professors feel that students are responsible for their own behavior and learning. They believe that poor classroom performance is punishment enough. E-Media law Adjunct Professor Steve Gillen is one such professor. He explained that by using these distractions, “their grade is going to reflect it and that is essentially self executing.”

Professor Jane Friedman expressed a similar idea. “The conscientious students,” she said, “almost never multitask during class. I focus my teaching on them.”

Sometimes professors use jokes to successfully deflect the distractions. E-Media Division Head Marjorie Fox said, “I told a student whose phone rang a couple of times that I would answer it myself next time.” When a video game chime sounded from a student’s laptop during class, Professor Friedman responded with, “‘Reached the next level, did we?’” “Everyone laughed,” Professor Friedman said, “but also everyone continued exactly what they were doing before.”

Some professors are attempting to control cell phone use by increasing student involvement. The goal is to keep students too busy to use mobile devices. Professor John Owens uses an online polling site. After voting with their cellphones, the results pop up on the overhead projector. “I think it has enhanced student engagement,” Dr. Owens said.

Professor Friedman tries to use the distractions as a challenge to be a better teacher. “I’m going to make class so compelling that students can’t help but pay attention,” she said. There are many approaches to handling cell phone use in class, but ultimately students are in control of their education.

“The students that will get ahead,” according to Professor Barcelona, “are the ones that will be able to stay focused and on task.”

Written by Ellen Brock, posted February 2012

 

Above: E-Media senior Chris Furganson did video interviews with Ms. Friedman and Mr. Barcelona, the division's two youngest professors, and found they have decidedly different views on the topic.