#14: Keep phones off during class

The use of phones distracts students and prevents meaningful class discussion.

For the first time ever in my college career, I had a class this semester with a professor who didn’t tolerate cell phones. I mean this in the most extreme of senses: like, point-blank would call people out for using their phone in any capacity. The class ended up being one of my favorite this year for that very reason. This was a discussion-based class, and even if people weren’t actively participating, we were all thoroughly engaged with the material. It made our quality of conversation relatively high and far more meaningful than it would have been if people had been checking out mentally, distracting themselves with their phones.

The thing is, it took a professor telling us literally to put the phone away to reach this point. And I don’t know that it should have to take that level of policing for us to take our education seriously as students. Look, I get it. Phones are distracting. We keep them tethered to us and in our pockets. As smartphones have entered our lives on an increasingly prevalent level, it’s become harder to turn off that distraction. I’m still not great about it either. But I think it’s essential to be able to disconnect for even a short period of time. And while that’s not always possible — I get that there are jobs and parents and a thousand reasons to text back — there is a noticeable difference between a class of people who are engaged with each other, and one where everyone is doing their own thing.

There’s going to be differences for everyone; putting the phone away is a case-by-case scenario. But the one thing that has helped me with that distracting buzz (and probably a lot of people have already done this, but I literally didn’t think about it until sophomore year) is just putting my phone on silent or airplane mode during class periods. The other thing that I think is helpful is getting a watch. Being able to check the time independent of your phone keeps you away from the temptation of responding to the next text.

I see this dangerous habit in both myself and other people in which I was stealing class time from myself by checking out and going to my phone as a knee-jerk reaction. It’s become so common in our day-to-day lives that I don’t think I had ever considered its impact until I was forced by a professor to confront it. Being mindful of it has both enhanced my learning experience and helped me to disconnect more easily when not in the classroom.

Post Author: Emma Palmer