Thursday, April 25, 2013

Electronic devices in class distract but don’t detract

By Anna Seiber, Columnist
The general policy in class is that students should have their phones off and put away and that computers, tablets and other electronic devices should only be out if they are being used to take notes. That being said, a great number of students continue to use their electronic devices for nonacademic purposes in class.

Beyond that, there are other distractions that students subject themselves to in a lecture class, such as working on other homework.

I will be honest. I have done it — all of it.

There have been days my computer has been out with Facebook up, my philosophy reading has been open in front of me, my phone has been in my lap where I have been covertly texting and my lonely notebook for the class I am actually in is on the side, where it receives an occasional note on the lecture.

The question is whether this should be considered a problem — or if it is, should it always be considered a problem. Beyond our psychological inability to multitask, there is the issue of respect for our classes, our professors and this institution. However, there are still instances when slacking off in class is not too big of a deal.

So, let’s look at one argument:

we pay more than $30,000 a year in tuition to study here. Thus, students should fully immerse themselves in class, pay attention and unplug from all other distractions such as phones, computers, e-mail, Facebook and other homework.

To multitask is to insult the amount you — or, more likely, your parents — pay to attend this university.

It is rude to professors and distracting to other students.

Counterargument: not all classes and professors are created equal.

Taking a silly Gen Ed taught by a professor who continuously disrespects the intellectual capacity of students and talks down to students is a waste of money and time.

So, yeah, I am going to check Pinterest. It is the only thing keeping me awake in that stuffy lecture hall. And the professor has an attendance policy, so it is not like I can just read the textbook, skip class and only show up for exams.

Doing other work in class does not seem like it should be a problem, because it is at least productive.

Paying such a huge amount of money to attend this institution — and therefore the classes offered by this institution — does make using class time for anything other than academic purposes feel a little … dirty. But sometimes that time can be used for more productive purposes.

I personally do not see the problem with multitasking in class so long as you understand the material and are doing well in the course. Oh, and so long as your multitasking is not a distraction to anyone else in the class.

So carry on with your technological distractions, carry on with doing other work in class — just make sure you still know what is going on in the course.