Faculty Compete with Classroom Cell Phone and Laptop Use

Friday, October 5, 2007

Once upon a time, bored students in classrooms distracted themselves with note-passing and whispering. Thanks to increasing wireless capabilities and the expanse of cell phone usage, however, today's students can cure their boredom with text messaging and recreationally surfing the Internet, providing an infinite amount of material from which to distract themselves from their classroom work.

This ongoing war between faculty and students has become a substantial problem, says Claire Simmers, Ph.D., an associate professor of management at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia. She opts to take a professional approach with her students.

"I discuss meeting etiquette - that is, if you were in a meeting with your boss or with a client or with your peers in a work situation, would you be doing those non-productive, off-task behaviors?" says Simmers, noting that such activity in a work environment can show up on performance reviews and tarnish an employee's reputation.

Simmers is quick to take action against students whose minds wander to their laptops or cell phones. "I bring attention to students who are not on task. Making sure they know you know is important," she says.

Simmers, like most teachers, uses student attention and class participation as a major factor in the grading process. Students continually distracted by their electronics are unable to engage in the class as fully as others.

"I give people an 'F' for classroom participation if they consistently exhibit this behavior. I have yet to fire someone from a class, but I would not hesitate to ask someone to leave if they persisted," says Simmers.

Simmers can be reached for comment at 610-660-1106, by e-mail at simmers@sju.edu, or by calling the Office of University Communications at 610-660-1222.

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