Check or Disconnect: Phones in class, again.

By Anne Dudley

One of my favorite professors recently expressed his frustrations with his students’ need to constantly check their phones in class. Personally, I thought we were past this. However, with so many people hyper connected to their smart phones, I’m also not surprised.

As a master’s student, we often have three-hour classes at night and are almost always guaranteed a break. Night classes don’t really interfere with the work day, so the only thing we’re missing is dinner and Glee.

My brother plays with a smart phone
My brother showing me the kickstand on my phone.

I know I am old, but didn’t we get over this in high school? Apparently not. I admit, I find it hard not to check at least once during a class, but I try to wait until the break.

A friend also recently mentioned that during a two-week extensive training, moderators gave student participants quick breaks specifically for cell phone usage. By allowing students to check, they seemed more focused when asked to return to the task.

What’s your take?  A blog post from The New York Times asks if cell phones can be used as tools during class, rather than just for distraction. So many people rely on our phones as our lifeline, calendar, news and entertainment provider, social coordinator, to-do list and much, much more.


Where is the line? Smart phones are like a third arm for many people. Obviously, during tests and graded assignments, cheating is a liability that forces the cells back into the book bags. But beyond that, do you think on the desk is OK? Flipped over on the desk?

I think the more we allow phones to affect our lives and our classrooms, the worse off we are. Disconnecting is important. Focus is important. If we cannot allow ourselves 1 hour and 15 minutes of NOT checking, when will we ever take a break?

CHIME IN! Would love some comments below or to

Anne Dudley is a graduate assistant and student of public relations in the College of Communication and Information at Kent State University.


2 thoughts on “Check or Disconnect: Phones in class, again.”

  1. In one of my classes (a small lecture) I sit in the front row. People next to me text frequently right in the middle of discussion. And I want to slap their phones out of their hands! It’s so disrespectful. Take a break or leave the class. No one is forcing you to be there.

    1. Laura,
      Thanks for the comment! This is Anne, I wrote the post on cell phones in class. I could not agree more. It can be hard to avoid looking for a long class, but as you said, no one is forcing you to be there and breaks exist for a reason. We are paying to take classes to learn face-to-face from the person in front of us. I agree that we should be respectful in the classroom. No one is perfect, but I don’t think it is not that much to ask. If a student really doesn’t want to be there in person, maybe an online class is better. The bigger argument in my opinion is in regards to attention span because we are constantly interrupted by our phones. If we can’t concentrate for a few minutes without looking at it, how will we get anything done?!

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