Students, teachers agree: tech use in classrooms getting out of hand

Scott Hendrix, instructor of finance, begins each Finance 450 class with a slide reminding students of his policy against the use of electronics during class, Nov. 5, 2013 in Umberger hall.

According to a
study conducted by Bernard McCoy, associate professor of broadcasting at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, students look at their phones an average of 11 times during a class.

The study surveyed students from UNL, the University of Kansas, University of Nebraska at Omaha, Morningside College in Iowa, The University of Mississippi, and the University of North Carolina; 777 students, six universities and five states.

With the advent of smartphones, the use of digital devices in the classroom has run rampant on college campuses. Gone are the days of taking notes on paper with a pen or pencil. There are distractions everywhere, regardless of whether a student brings his or her own digital device.

“If someone with a laptop is on Pinterest, then I’m looking at their Pinterest too,” Grace Hesse, freshman in biology, said.

Both students and teachers agree that this is hurting the learning environment.

“I look at [my phone] when I’m not really listening, but it only causes me to not listen even more,” Erin Osborne, freshman in psychology, said. “I would pay attention if I didn’t have it to look at.”

A popular solution to the problem is to ban technology in the classroom. Megan Strain, instructor of psychology and Ph.D. candidate, gives her students an assignment on multitasking and its effect on memory.

This provides them with the reason why I am against digital devices in the classroom and informs them about the possible consequences of doing it,” Strain said.

Every professor and student is different. Jeff Smith, associate professor of geography, recognizes a need for technology in the classroom if used responsibly. According to Smith, some students might take better notes on computers and the removal of laptops and other digital devices might negatively affect their grade.

“It has to do with how much attention they are giving to their devices versus the class,” Smith said. “If they are paying more attention to the device, then they are at a disadvantage.”

There is no university-wide policy on technology use in the classroom at K-State. Smith said it’s not a problem unless the students act irresponsibly and make it a problem.

“I treat my students like adults and I expect them to act like adults,” he said. “This means showing respect for people around you. If a student needs to text or email someone during class and they are not disrupting others, then it is not a problem for me.”