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Should Texting be Allowed in the Classroom?

Mandy Gingerich, an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Butler University has been giving her students an interesting test that’s not part of the curriculum. For the past three semesters, she’s conducted a little experiment of her own. Students in her Cognitive Processes class are divided into two groups. One group is assigned to listen to her lecture about time management. The other group is directed to text message while listening to her lecture. Both groups are warned that there will be a test after the lecture. The non-texting students averaged 84.7 percent on the quiz, while the kids who texted during the lecture averaged 59.3 percent. In terms of grades, that’s a B and an F, respectively. I’m sure it comes as no surprise that the group who listened with undivided attention achieved higher test scores. What surprised me, however, is that this teacher still isn’t sure whether texting should be allowed in class or not.

“I’m still struggling with where I am,” says Gingerich. “I find it disrespectful and rude it is distracting but at the same time, I don’t feel like I want to or need to micromanage the students. They’re adults, and I want to encourage them to make their own decisions and to think independently and to deal with the consequences. And if that means suffering on an exam because they were text-messaging during a lecture, well, that’s their decision to make.”

Now, I’m all for natural consequences and try to apply them in my own child rearing whenever possible. The child texts, they don’t absorb the information, they fail. Lesson learned. I suppose that makes sense. And I understand her when she says she doesn’t want to or need to micromanage students. According to my teens, it was common to find kids texting in class at their high school even though it was against the rules. Kids texted under their desks or while hiding their phones behind their backpacks or a stack of books. As sneaky as some of the kids were, I’m sure most of the teachers were aware of the texting going on in their classrooms and just chose to ignore it.

However, I don’t think it’s appropriate to let students text in class. Would you let kids talk on their phones during class? Would it be okay if kids leaned across the desks and held conversations with their classmates while the teacher struggled to cover the material? Would it be fair to the kids who were there to learn if the teacher had to interrupt her lesson every few minutes to remind kids to put away their phones? I wasn’t allowed to pass notes to my friends back when I was in school. This is basically the same thing. Why do some people feel this virtual note-passing is okay?

I’ve heard of teachers using cell phones as part of their instruction; directing students to text in their answers. If it’s part of the lesson plan, that’s another matter, but otherwise I don’t think cell phones are necessary in class. Heck, back in my day, we didn’t even have cell phones. The only people who had mobile phones were doctors and the phones were as big as a shoebox. In fact, the phone in my house had a cord! A cord, I tell ya! I could only move a couple feet from the wall while I talked! And if the rest of my family was in the same room, I could kiss the idea of privacy behind. Young whippersnappers thinking they need to be connected 24/7! (Sorry, I don’t know why grandpa’s words were coming out of my mouth there.)

So what’s your take? Do you think cell phones should be allowed in class? Why or why not? Is it okay in grade school? Middle school? High school? College? Ever?

Are kids too connected these days? This mother says: Let them be bored!

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