iPhone Class Etiquette
Student Hayley Krause’s body may be in attendance, but her mind is elsewhere.
Within the last 45 minutes Krause has checked her iPhone 4S 16 times. She has read over 20 new tweets, received and replied to three Facebook notifications, paged through a friend’s 100-photo spring break album, played two rounds of Draw Something and tweeted a picture of a fellow student asleep in class. Krause may be one step ahead of her sleeping classmate, but having spent over half of the lecture on her iPhone, one may ask the question, by how much?
With more than 550,000 downloadable apps, the Apple App Store has captured the attention of mobile device holders everywhere, including students. After reaching 25 billion downloads on March 2, Apple ranked Facebook, Words With Friends, Angry Birds, and Twitter in its Top-25 All Time Free Apps.
With all of these temptations, students like Krause are constantly fighting the impulse to reach for their phones in class, but teachers, researchers and fellow classmates agree that learning how to control that impulse is key to succeeding in the classroom.
People who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information do not pay attention, control their memory or switch from one job to another as well as those who prefer to complete one task at a time, according to a 2009 Stanford research study.
Although the current generation of students finds their ability to multi-task beneficial, the reality is that it often hurts more than it helps. Here are a few do’s and don’ts to bringing a cell phone to class that will keep students minds in the classroom and out of the iCloud.
DO take note of how many times you check your phone in class.
Most students are blissfully unaware of how frequently they check their phones. Many fall into the same subconscious phone-checking reflexes as Krause. When University of Minnesota sophomore Amy Hernandez was asked how frequently she checked her phone in class, she was surprised by her answer.
“Oh my gosh, in like a 50 minutes class I probably check my phone every 10 minutes at least," said Hernandez. "Actually, maybe it’s more like every seven minutes. Ok actually five. Wow, that’s terrible.”
Other students like University of Wisconsin-Madison sophomore Kate Wagener have noticed their cell phone distractions after it was too late.
“In one of my classes I was on Facebook and playing games like Draw Some on my iPhone just to pass the time during lecture," said Wagener. "I intentionally stopped doing that once I got to studying and realized I hadn’t absorbed any of the info and had to study more because of it.”
Stop your distractions before it’s too late. The next time you’re in a class, tally how many times you check your device. If you find yourself clicking the unlock button more than three times a class, you may want to consider implementing the following strategies.
DO disable your notifications.
Impulses aside, receiving notifications give you an excuse to check your phone. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter or Draw Something, the subtle vibration in your backpack signaling someone wants to get a hold of you can be a distraction in itself.
“I turned off my notifications for Facebook and for Twitter within a month of downloading them because it was so bad," said Hernandez. "They get so distracting, especially when you have notifications for random things like a group or an invite."
The iPhone allows you to be notified three ways: by sound, a banner at the top of the display or a badge that displays an image or number on the application icon.
To disable your notifications go to Settings, then click Notifications. Within the notifications tab you can customize alerts for each app. To guarantee your phone isn’t providing you with reasons to lose focus, set all apps to no notifications.
“I didn’t even know there was an option for turning off your notifications until a month ago. Since I’ve done it I feel like I check my phone a lot less. Not going to lie, it was a bit of a blow to my ego, though,” said University of Iowa sophomore Jennifer Hoch.
Although it may be hard to do at first, disabling your notifications will decrease excuses to check your phone and ultimately help you focus more in the classroom.
DON’T rely on your teacher to maintain your interest.
Having been a professor for over 25 years, Dr. Frank Durham has firsthand observed the growing presence of mobile phones at the University of Iowa.
“Over the past five or six years I’ve gone from trying to restrict them [students] to letting them do what they want," said Durham. "I don’t know what else I can do. I’ve tried to talk to students about multitasking because it’s a bad idea and listening in class and taking notes is more productive than checking Facebook, but I can’t take responsibility for their work ethic in class.”
In 2010, 95 percent of adults between the ages of 18 and 34 owned a cell phone, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project. With the unavoidable presence of cell phones on campus, Durham says that some professors have tried to think of new ways to keep students from having their phones out in class.
“I was in a meeting with faculty from across campus and someone suggested taking students phones when they entered the classroom," said Durham. "I asked if we should take their shoes too? I think policing students could take all of our time and it won’t necessarily help.”
Teachers are now finding that student and cell phones are synonymous. As hopes for keeping cell phones out of the classroom diminish, professors have come to terms with where their responsibility as an educator ends and a student’s work ethic must begin.
“I try to explain concepts and have well structured lectures that allows them to pay attention for all 50 minutes, but apart from that, that’s the end of my territory. For 50 minutes, just pay attention.”
DO realize when you need to delete it.
Oftentimes, students feel that downloading certain apps is what turns the iPhone from convenient to obsessive. This obsession can become so severe that they volunteer to delete the app because it disrupts their daily functions.
“The first months that I got Scramble with Friends I was so obsessed with getting notifications from people who wanted to play me that I deleted it off my phone during midterms," said Hoch. "But I really missed it so after I finished my tests I re-downloaded it."
Although it may seem drastic, deleting an app, even if it’s only temporary, can dramatically help you focus on your schoolwork. Indiana University senior Ryan Woods found that keeping Facebook only on his computer kept him from being distracted in class.
“I deleted Facebook off my phone last fall," said Woods. "It was way to distracting. I was constantly checking my newsfeed for new photos or to see what all my friends were doing who don’t go to IU. Since then I have noticed I pay way better attention in lectures and absorb more information."
Whether it’s disabling notifications or relying on self-control, it’s necessary for students to implement strategies that keep them from being distracted in the classroom, because in the end, your final isn’t going to test your ability to crumble a pile of bananas with an angry bird.