Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Cell Phone Addiction in the Classroom


This is what I'm up against. The battle against cell phones in the classroom is real, and I'm losing. Not only do students routinely sneak to look at their cellphones during class, several students in one of my classes have TWO cellphones. I snapped this photo while this student was doing an important, graded in-class assignment.

Cell phone addiction is real. I've ripped up a midterm because a student was looking at his phone, despite a warning not to have phones out at all. It's a rule written on the syllabus, and I begin class every day asking students to put their phones away. I've asked students to leave the classroom if they couldn't stay off their phones.

Some might quibble with the idea of cell phone "addiction." I think it depends on your definition of addiction. Mine is this:

A persistent, compulsive need to have something in spite of negative consequences.

Is a failed midterm worth checking Snapchat? What social media post is so important it can't wait for one hour? What text could possibly have such importance that a delayed response of 15 minutes will be devastating? Is it worth losing points, getting behind, possibly having to re-take a test, or antagonizing the teacher? Never mind the distraction from learning.

I understand the draw of constantly checking a phone. I am not an out-of-touch technophobe with a flip phone in my purse for emergencies. My phone is my constant companion; I run my online business on it, I check in with my master mind group on Google Hangouts, I text regularly with family and friends, it tracks my workouts and diet, and it contains priceless pictures, and a whole library of podcasts that provide the background narrative of my life. I fight the urge to check it during class time even when I'm teaching. I understand the urge. I do.

Here's the difference: I don't check it during meetings, during church, while driving, rarely after 9:00 at night, and in many other circumstances. I can leave it behind on a vacation (well, I'll keep in my purse for emergencies). Sometimes I completely forget about it for hours at a time when I'm engaged in a project. I seriously doubt some of my students can say something similar. I am not saying I have some sort of moral high ground. I'm saying there is a difference between regularly utilizing a phone and an an addiction. I have assigned many essays on technology and social media, and combined with what I've read there and their behaviors in class, I can confidently say that there are some who have a true addiction.

Some admit they sleep with their phone so they don't miss any late-night or early-morning texts. Most admit to texting and driving (but I can multi-task!), and in one memorable class discussion, most said if they had to choose between food or their phone for one day, they would choose their phone. I have witnessed the withdrawal symptoms. I used to be able to judge when it was time for a break by the smokers getting antsy, but now that I work on a smoke-free campus, I can judge break time by the sneaky reaches into the backpacks and the anxiety and agitation.

Labeling something as an addiction, however, does not mean the rules should change or that the behavior is somehow more acceptable. When students show up drunk or high, I show them the door. I don't care if they are addicts, it's not acceptable in the classroom. If you take your phone out during a midterm, you will still fail.




11 comments:

  1. I teach middle school, and I have noticed the exact same behaviors. Two very common reactions are: hyperventilation if I confiscate the phone, and irrational anger if I ask them to put their phone on my desk. What really gets me is that I have parents texting and calling their child during the school day, and their child is legitimately terrified that they will get in trouble if they don't respond. If they don't respond, the parent keeps calling!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Parents are part of the problem, for sure!

      Delete
    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    3. Same issue with my students. I am still blown away at the audacity of my students AND their parents. These parents say they are our teammates in furthering education, but many just seem to add to the problem.

      Delete
    4. I confiscated a student's cell phone the other day (he refused to give it up, so I had to have campus security come pick him up and take it to the office). He told me excitedly the next day that mom was going to pick him up at school, pick up his cell phone, and take him to the video game store. WIN! I teach high school math.

      Delete
  2. I hate the constant battle with the earbuds! Do you really think I don't see a wire sticking out of your head?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That drives me bats. If I see you with earbuds, don't ask me to repeat the directions...

      Delete
    2. So many sweatshirts come with ear buds embedded in them. It's crazy!

      Delete
  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Laura, I enjoyed reading this post far more than I should have! I don't teach in high schools at the moment but let me assure you this is a huge problem (well, not having 2 phones - that one's new to me) with younger grades as well. I actually had a 6 year old - that's right, 6 - bring a mobile phone to school (against the school policy) and they refused to hand it over. The principal did come and confiscate it...but then the parent found out...and said that their child "needed to have it", "it's for emergencies"...and the principal caved....grrr. Plus, inconsistency with consequences surrounding phones is also a problem. I would confiscate and phone I saw, or report it if the student refused, but I would constantly be taking them from students in other classes because those teachers "didn't want to deal with it".

    I think there is no need for any phone at school. You are there to learn. Want to socialise - do it with real people in the yard at recess/lunch and before and after school. If there is an emergency a parent can call the office.

    I feel we got to this point because administrators failed to get ahead of this problem to start with and are now trying to play catch-up.

    Oh, that's my two cents. At least you made me realise that dealing with one child and one phone is easier than one child and two phones....

    PS: I wish it would let you edit your comment when you realise you have an obvious spelling mistake that changes the whole meaning of a sentence after you click "publish"! :-)

    ReplyDelete
  5. My response: http://herclutchness.blogspot.com/2016/02/cellphone-brain-disease-polite.html
    :)

    ReplyDelete