Staff Ed: Texting during school distracts class, reveals students’ need for technology

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Text messaging, texting as it is now more commonly known, has emerged in recent years as more than just the newest technological fad.  For many young adults, especially high school students, texting has become a legitimate form of communication.

However, the ubiquity of texting has become more and more pronounced–alarmingly so–in recent months.  It has penetrated into the very classrooms of Clayton High School.

In most classrooms, texting during class is not allowed.  Many teachers will take the offender’s phone for the remainder of the class period, and most teachers will at least give a verbal reprimand, if a student is caught texting.

Juniors  Sophie Newman, Erica Hill, Aby Dulle and Leah Staenberg text during  Craig Sucher’s biology class, taking advantage of the lab tables. (Tom Haslam)

Juniors Sophie Newman, Erica Hill, Aby Dulle and Leah Staenberg text during Craig Sucher’s biology class, taking advantage of the lab tables. (Tom Haslam)

But despite these efforts to stamp out text messaging during school, its presence has increased.  Why is this?  Perhaps because the act itself can be so discreetly performed.  Maybe because of the simple allure of going against the rules.  But could it really be because of teenagers’ constant need to stay connected to the world around them?

Texting is essentially the same as making a phone call or leaving a voicemail.  If the issue is important enough to text about during class, then it should be important enough to make a call about.

Not only is texting during class rude, but it also leads to more serious issues, especially when it comes to cheating.

Texts, like some calculators, can be used as endless reservoirs of useful information–anything from polyatomic ions to a list of the 19th century American presidents.  If students aren’t caught texting during lectures, they could reasonably expect to get away with a glance or two towards their phone’s screen during a test.

But the use of texting as a form of cheating has morphed into more than just a way for students to access previously stored information.

Having multiple sections of the same class, taught by the same teacher, throughout one day has long presented opportunities for cheating.  All a student need do is ask a friend who already took the test what was on it, in order to get the “inside scoop” and that extra edge while taking the test.  But texting has made this even easier; verbal exchanges are rendered unnecessary, and the most ambitious of cheaters may even go so far as to text during the exam to ask for help on difficult questions.  And of course, creative minds can are always discovering clever new ways to cheat without getting caught.

Of course, we all would like to think that here at Clayton, cell phones and text messaging are never used in schemes such as these.  But the fact is that the easier it becomes for students to cheat, the more attractive these opportunities sound–even to the most morally upright students.

Although texting may seem discreet and less rude, it is just as irritating as pulling out a phone in the middle of class and talking aloud.  If you wouldn’t carry on a conversation with a friend about the most recent developments on “American Idol” verbally during class, then you shouldn’t continue it over texts.

Texting during class is juvenile.  It clearly displays a student’s boredom with what is going on in the classroom, and conveys a lack of respect for the teacher and the class.  Some classes may be boring, but that’s not an excuse to abandon all efforts at paying attention.

Texting is not only rude to teachers, but it can also be rude to family and friends. The habit of multi-tasking in general, especially while in conversation with another person, is one that has come to define our generation.

Ever the busy, overworked students, we tend to be on the go far too often, juggling our various commitments.  We attempt to control this confusion and disorder by doing multiple things at one time.  Although we sometimes feel as if we must keep track of ten things at once, this shouldn’t affect our relationships.

When a group of students is having a conversation, it’s socially acceptable for one of them to slip away for a moment to take an important phone call.  But is it appropriate–or respectful–for someone to carry on an entirely different conversation, simultaneously, over texts, while giving the present conversation only half of their attention?

This may seem gratifying to the person doing the texting, who feels important or popular, since they are sought out by others.  But to their friends, the “texter” is acting as if he or she has better things to do, and better people to talk to.

Our generation needs to stay grounded in the moment.  The goal should not be to have the loudest cell phone in the room, but to be engaging and friendly in person.  A “text” relationship should not become the equivalent of a tangible, genuine relationship, built in the here and now.

While texting may be viewed as a harmless activity, its implications reach further than just modern methods of communication.  Students’ lives outside of school are busy, but the need to communicate with friends and family should not trump the responsibility of listening during class.

Clayton High School has given students the opportunity to keep their cell phones with them during school hours.  Some high schools require cell phones to be out of sight the whole day, in a locker or even left at home.  Students at Clayton take for granted the availability of their cell phones.  If these behaviors escalate still further, this policy might even be reversed.

Texting during class has not reached sufficient levels to merit serious disciplinary action, but as the school continues to block websites like Facebook and Text Twist, students need to realize that by continuing to flout the rules, they are putting the privilege of texting at risk.

Students should take care of communication needs before school, check their phones after school or between classes, and during school, keep phones where they belong–stowed in a backpack or locker.  They should take the time to turn off their phones at the beginning of class, to avoid being tempted by the buzz of an incoming message.

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