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Texting replaces doodling in class

October 26, 2006

Although UW-River Falls professors try to thwart the disruption of class by encouraging students to turn their phones off or on silent mode, text messaging is quickly becoming a menace in the classroom.

Because text messaging does not require students to verbally communicate with someone, it is possible to silently send and receive messages without drawing attention from professors.

Some professors are oblivious to the fact that such activities are taking place in their classrooms.

“Frankly, I am probably naïve, but hadn’t yet thought about text messages being sent or received during regular classes,” said Davida Alperin, associate professor of political science. “My only concern about such messaging was during exams, so I try to keep my eye on students then, just as I would to prevent any other type of cheating.”

Although text messaging has not been as recognizable from the professors’ perspectives, students have noticed that the trend is on the rise.

“I have seen many students in my class send text messages in the middle of class,” sophomore Kirsten Farrar said.

Business administration professor Susan Rogers has not noticed students sending or receiving text messages during her classes, but knows that it does happen.

“When I was doing a peer observation of another professor’s class last year, I noticed a lot of this activity going on,” she said.

Professors may view this new trend as an added distraction during lectures, but some students don’t see it that way.

“There will never be a lack of distractions in class,” senior Kat Krtnick said. “People talk, draw, sleep, do other homework, so I don’t think taking away cell phones would cause less distractions.”

The sending and receiving of text messages usually occurs when students don’t feel the need to pay attention or have lost interest in the class.

“When I text, I’m tuning the lesson out completely,” senior Diana Rogers said. “In some classes that’s a bad thing, in others it doesn’t matter as much. I tend to only do it in the classes that don’t require 100 percent attention.”

Many professors already have stipulations in their syllabi to try to restrict cell phone use during classes, but have not yet elaborated on text messaging. 

Professors at other institutions have taken action to deter students from text messaging while class is in session.

University of Texas-Austin Instructor Nathan Kreuter has a policy statement warning students that “Anyone using their phone in class or text messaging during class will be given an absence for each offense.”

Penalties for text messaging vary from professor to professor, as well as from institution to institution.

At Tennessee Wesleyan College, Professor Mark A. Shoop stipulates in his syllabus that, “If a cellular telephone rings during class, if a student attempts to make a telephone call during class, or if a student is found text-messaging during class, 10% will be deducted from the student’s highest exam grade.”

One way professors could dissuade students from text messaging would be to enhance their lectures to better engage students.

“I think it’s a growing concern, but will maybe make professors rethink their teaching strategies,” Diana said. “If a teacher wants to eliminate it, maybe they should focus on group work or class activities more than just monotonous lectures.”