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My article in the October issue for the college newspaper

December 5, 2017

The Cell Phone Generation and the Unforeseen Consequences

“I use my cellphone when a class does not interest me,” said Suneesh a freshman at Queensborough Community College (QCC), who is majoring in criminal justice. Suneesh continued to say that he has felt his grades decline due to classroom cellphone usage, and he misses a lot of the work in class and at this point in the semester, he has to play catch up. At this point of the semester, he is trying his best to refrain from using his cellphone in class.

Like Suneesh, thousands of students use their cellphones in the classroom for reasons other than learning. While many students work tirelessly to achieve in excelling in their classes, a lot of students allow their cellphones to distract them. Attending college requires a great amount of commitment, patience, money, and support. Are you one of those students who continuously use your cell phone in class?

A recent Los Angeles Times article reveals that teachers across America must compete with students phones for attention. Matt Miles, a high school teacher from Fairfax County, Virginia, says the problem is getting worse: “Whereas five years ago, I could quietly ask the one rebellious student to put his or her phone away with no real interruption to class, doing that today would require multiple conversations with a majority of my class.”

A second year liberal arts student of QCC student said, “I browse through my cellphone when I am bored in class”. This seems to be a mutual feeling amongst college students.

It is understandable that cellphones must be attended to in the case of emergencies, important calls etc. However, some students are addicted to texting and social media sites, which disrupts learning in the classroom. If a student can give their full attention to all of their classes, there will be a huge difference in their academic achievement.

In an article recently published by the Huffington Post, “the London School of Economics study found that schools which ban the use of phones experienced a substantial improvement in student test scores, with the researchers concluding that phones can have a negative impact on productivity through distraction. Researchers found that phones hurt vulnerable students the most. Study co-author Dr. Richard Murphy, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Texas, reports: ‘Allowing phones into schools would be the most damaging to low-achieving and low-income students, exacerbating any existing learning inequalities’ ”

Wally Rosenthal was recently interviewed about cellphone usage in the classroom. Mr. Rosenthal who is the lead Math Instructor for CUNY Start, stated “yes there is a difference, there are students who are stronger or weaker in Math. The students who do not have their phones out are more [prone] to concentrate on what is being taught and would progress more. Weaker students who focus in and do not get distracted improve a great deal. Students who are stronger in Math but use their cellphones still get by sometimes but not always. Students who are on their cellphones have an extraordinarily difficult time. As a result of these observations there is a strict policy of no cellphone use in the classroom.” Mr. Rosenthal explained, “This policy is not punitive but has everything to do with trying to help students with a much better chance of being successful in learning the material that is being taught.” Mr. Rosenthal’s advice on cellphone usage in the classroom is “don’t”. He continued to say, “because our phones are so addictive it is necessary to turn off and place in bags while in class”.

This rule can be applied to Jason a QCC student who stated that “While in class I might check for the time on my phone but I when see message notifications and I end up scrolling through my phone”. This is the reason many teachers such as Mr. Rosenthal have a strict no cellphone use policy.

Popular apps such as Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Reddit, Whatsapp and the list goes on require a great amount of content to keep one’s account engaging or interesting. Most of these applications (apps) come equipped with a story option that entails pictures or mini videos of a person’s daily activity, which can be overwhelming and sometimes can eclipse scholastic pursuits. Diana B., a past student at QCC who graduated last year with a finance degree, said that social media was consuming her life and she had to make a decision of either focusing on her classes or keeping up with daily socializing. She chose to focus on her career and is now pursuing accounting at Queens College.

A past professor of QCC from the criminal justice department, Mrs. Evy Poumpouras shared a personal story with her students. Professor Evy, who is a former secret service agent informed her students that she had worked under the Obama and Bush Administration and neither of the Presidents would be on their cell phones while speaking with someone in person, they always gave their undivided attention. She informed her students even the most powerful individuals have respect for their peers. Mrs. Poumpouras continued to state that, “It is very disrespectful to scroll through your cell phone while having an in person conversation. She also had a strict policy in her classroom of not using cellphones, if a student was caught using their phone they would be thrown out of class. While not all professors are as strict, some do have a no cellphone usage policy on the QCC Campus. Some students do ignore the rules and secretly use their phones. The next time you scroll through your cell phone in class, ask your self is it worth it?

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