Technology can create distraction in classrooms

Allison Janda

While this is not a rampant concern, some professors are witness to the growing trend.

English teaching assistant Nicholas Behm has not had first-hand experience with distracted students, but said some of his colleagues have.

“I’ve heard teachers who teach courses where laptops are used often complain that they’ve caught students playing games, visiting chat rooms or e-mailing friends when they should be listening to a lecture or finishing homework,” he said.

Not only do laptops pose a potential distraction, cellular phones do, too. Most cell phones have Internet access and students can play games or check e-mail within minutes.

With all the electronic gaming and chats, some may wonder if students are doing any learning in the classroom.

According to a study completed by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, “close to half (48 percent) of college student gamers agreed that gaming keeps them from studying ‘some’ or ‘a lot.'”

The same study — released in July — also found “… college student gamers’ reported hours studying per week match up closely with those reported by college students in general.”

Steve Jones, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago who specializes in technology and popular culture, was surprised by the degree to which technology has become a part of students’ lives.

Computers are “used for everything from schoolwork to socializing to games,” Jones said. “It’s been a very short time indeed since the PC’s introduction to the point that it’s become almost indispensable for college students.”

However, Jones said no direct conclusions could be drawn from the results as to how the technology negatively effects the classroom.

Students can blame the influx of technology into the classroom on the fact computers have always been a part of their lives, Jones said.

College students today were toddlers when IBM introduced Americans to the personal computer and Apple uncovered the Mac, he said.

“They’ve never known life without computers,” Jones said.

Still, some believe students need to be able to attend class without the temptation of technology.

“People need to learn how to manage time in order to have items like cell phones or computers,” freshman Anna Keely said. “Today, teachers are more willing to take your calculator and clear the memory or ban the use of personal technology devices during class.”