Dear Secretary of the University Senate,
I am writing to you with the consideration of the next meeting, where University of Buffalo’s Senate will vote on a proposal to ban students from using electronic devices during class, except when such devices are necessary for conducting an academic research. I highly appreciate the opportunity to share my view on the proposal, especially when the topic is so controversial. On one hand, many of my fellow students encourage me not to support the ban. They say World Web provides them with instant answers to many questions, together with wider access to information and video. On the other hand, I observe the negative influence of texting during the class. Frankly speaking, I am a strong supporter of the ban. I think University at Buffalo should ban students from using electronic devices during class. Furthermore, I believe that the students should be banned from using electronic devices during the class even for academic research. I support banning usage of mobile devices because they are dominant distractions in the class. They represent serious distraction and serve as a hindrance to the academic progress of the students.
First, I believe that students use electronic devices mostly for non-class related purposes. Thus, they become distracted and thus distract people around them. My opinion is grounded both on my personal observations and on scientific evidence. According to Bernard McCoy’s study, students have different motives to use electronic devices in class, such as “texting (85.9%), emailing (67.8%), and social networking (66%). Respondents mentioned three leading advantages for engaging in the non-class related behavior, which was to stay connected (69.8%), to fight boredom (55%), and for entertainment (49.1%)” (McCoy, 2013, p.10). Consequently, using electronic devices constitute an irresistible temptation for students to use them inappropriately. Students are unable to pay attention to classroom activities if they are using electronic devices for their private purposes (for example, texting or checking their email). Given that, students can misuse electronic devices easily and distract other students with their activities, as well. I strongly agree that using electronic devices is disruptive to other students in the class. In fact, they are. While some of the students type any messages on their laptops, others become distracted by that. Curiosity is another strong human inclination that only few find easy to resist. As a result, using electronic devices, and especially mostly for non-class related purposes, is harmful to all the students. It is especially true about the use of social media that not all teachers can control. Not only the owners of the laptops and cell phones spend time in social networking, but also it can distract other students around the guilty party, as well.
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Apart from that, using electronic devices is surely a violation of the classroom’s code of conduct. To me, usage of electronic devices for mostly non-class related purposes are both the disruptive behavior and display of disrespect to the teacher. From the one point of view, using electronic devices in class is disruptive behavior because it interferes with the teaching and learning process. As disruption may include engaging in activities not related to the class, using cell phones and laptops for personal purposes fits perfectly into this definition. It is especially true towards using a cell phone to talk or send text messages and using electronic devices during the lessons for non-class related purposes.
From another point of view, such disruptive behavior is a display of students’ disrespect. It is not a secret that student-centered teaching approach is commonly used in the classroom nowadays. Teachers, who use it, operate as the facilitators of the students’ progress. Obviously, students are free to decide which learning tools are the most helpful to them in acquiring the desired skills and knowledge. Nevertheless, the teacher is “the best teaching aid ever”. None technical tools can substitute the teacher in contributing to learner’s comprehension, as they do not answer all the questions. Therefore, students should value their instructors and respect them. It is all about setting priorities and cooperation. In the given context, using electronic devices shows that students find texting and emailing more important than the information provided by the instructor. To me it resembles persistent speaking without permission or side conversation. Teachers deserve respect and students’ attention. Accordingly, listening to the teachers’ explanation should be of the highest priority to the students.
Additionally, usage of electronic devices causes students who engage in the behaviors to perform more poorly on quizzes, exams, and other tests. It is easy to explain as being distracted students can miss, forget or mishear something important. Unfortunately, students usually overestimate their abilities. They think they can be multitaskers and combine classroom activities with texting. However, it is not true. There is such a term as inattentional blindness. Human brain cannot concentrate on two tasks simultaneously. It means that a student can devote his or her attention to a particular task, while other will be left without attention. Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons call it a zero-sum game, saying, “If we pay more attention to one place, object, or event, we necessarily pay less attention to others. If we successfully pay attention to something and notice it, will it then be remembered? This too is an illusion…” (Chabris & Simons, 2011).
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Modern research confirms the attention distraction when texting. In particular, Wei and Wang’s (2010) study found the following:
When students text during class and simultaneously listen to lectures, their limited information-processing capacity […] requires that they have to concentrate on one of those tasks and not the other. Thus, […] those students who text during class may need more time to process lecture notes (new information) or even be unable to comprehend the content well due to the interference of irrelevant tasks […] (p. 14).
To add even more, Fried’s study revealed that there is a considerable, negative relationship between in-class laptop use and course grades. As his research confirms, “higher levels of laptop use were associated with lower student-reported levels of lecture clarity, attention, and understanding of the course material” (Fried, 2008).
As one can notice, the usage of electronic devices has negative impact on students’ academic performance. First, students use electronic devices for mostly non-class related purposes and thus neglect the importance of the learning process. With it, they become distracted and distract others. Not only this is a disruptive behavior, it is the display of the disrespect, as well. Finally, using electronic devices in class affects course grades and information-processing capacity of the students. Based on the arguments listed above, I support a proposal to ban students from using electronic devices during class, even when such devices are needed to carry out an academic exercise. Unfortunately, students tend to abuse their freedom of using electronic devices in class. Therefore, using such devices as laptops, cell phones and others should be banned in class.