Surrender Your Phones: St. Clair Professor Looking to End Cellphone Distractions
Windsor, ON - A St. Clair College professor is looking to end cellphone distractions in the classroom with a new creative method asking students to surrender their hand-held device.

Phone calls, text messages, social media and web browsing, it's no surprise students are doing it all in the classroom. A study by Magna Publications involving 300 marketing majors at two different Universities showed 98 per cent of the students reported they text during class.

“I have a cellphone too, I understand how distracting it is,” said Faculty, English and Communications professor Heather Greene. “I put myself in the student's shoes. When I put my phone away, I can see how much more work I can do.”

After reading an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education titled Today's Lesson: Life in the Classroom Before Cellphones, Greene borrowed the idea of asking students to surrender their phones before the class begins. Participating students earn a bonus mark on upcoming assignments as a reward.

“I've noticed increased concentration and participation in classes,” Greene said.

In hopes of seeing more participation and conversations in the classroom, the St. Clair professor implemented the innovative idea this semester and the feedback has been welcoming. Students in her College Writing and Short Fiction classes have been signing a form and leaving their hand-held device on the front desk in every class.

Greene is not forcibly taking them and there are a few circumstantial exceptions. To be fair, if students do not have a cellphone she will still reward them as long as they are noticeably participating in the classroom. She said one student without a cellphone surrenders his hand-held gaming device.

As well, if a student is waiting for an important phone call Greene said she will bend the rules.

Students are allowed to check their phones during breaks – Greene said there is a mad rush to the cellphone pile when break is announced – and the rule doesn't apply for computer labs.

“I pay attention more to the lectures without my electronic device,” said 17-year-old Jennifer Tim.

The Social Service Worker - Gerontology student said she participates and gives up her phone every class. She said she likes the idea and is learning more, as well she is spending less time on her device since Greene implemented the cellphone policy.

“Yes (it's distracting), because you are focused on a particular distraction while not paying attention to the professor's lectures, therefore missing important parts,” Tim said.

First year student Sammy Grant also participates in the cellphone bonus each week.

“When she first asked the class if we would be interested in participating, I thought that it would help,” Grant said.

Students are reporting they are not only paying attention easier in class but they retain more information, Greene said. She admits it's not a ground-breaking strategy but it's made her life easier.

Greene has recommended it to other professors and said some of them have come forward asking her about the in-class cellphone method.

“It's rewarding,” Greene said. “It's nice to see their eyes up and not down on the phone texting.”

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