In any classroom in the country, whether in a high school or college, you will always find a few of these — even if you weren’t trying to look.
They’re everywhere. Tucked under desks, hidden behind books and sometimes in plain sight – at the owner’s risk.
Cell phones have become a lifeline for teens. Social media apps like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Yik Yak have become must-haves for everyone with a smart phone, including your friends’ parents, which can be awkward.
And because of their lifeline status, they permeate classrooms daily – and teachers and professors hate it.
Let’s take Jed Zawissa, a not-so-shy, shaggy haired junior. One gloomy Friday when a Ken Burns documentary was being shown to the half-awake class, Zawissa, sitting directly two desk sets behind the teacher, frequently lifted his phone to make a funky looking Snapchat face. He wasn’t shy about the face, or his phone being out either. But he was never talked to by the teacher. She never noticed.
Sam Smith, a senior, wasn’t shy about using his phone either. He was even cracking a chuckle at a vibrating phone every few minutes.
Even Katelynn Wilde, the shy girl wearing the vans in the front-right corner, had her phone out, and she has been the appointed model student by the teacher. Throughout a 35-minute time frame, the film was halted twice by Professor Katye Munger to tell students to put their phones away.
“I don’t want to take away people’s phones. It’s not something that I enjoy doing, but they definitely are a distraction in class,” Munger said after the class.
Cell phone usage in class is rampant. When students in one class were asked how many of the=m had used their phone in a class, all 15 raised their hands – with no look of shame either.
“Honestly, I use my phone in every class,” junior Camilo Cuadra said. “I’ve been caught by teachers though. Professor Sanjukta Ghosh took my phone in class one time and wrote a message saying she would fail me if I was caught again.”
He was one of the lucky ones with Professor Ghosh. Anyone who has taken a class with her knows that she isn’t afraid to throw phones in the trash if a student is caught just peering at it.
So what drives students to be on their phones during class, knowing professors hate it?
“It depends on the professor and what it’s in,” said senior Daley Crowley.
She said she has been successful in her approach of not being caught, saying “I try to not make it too obvious, or in sight.”
But some professors never give students a chance to have their phones out.
Tom Conroy, a former Castleton communication professor and now University of Rhode Island adjunct professor, was notorious for having a phone basket. Upon entering class, students were instructed to drop their phones in the basket to be retrieved when they left.
“My "basket policy" was the result of too many students distracting me and other students by texting in class and or leaving the room during class period to, I assume, check their phone and send messages,” he said, adding that he realizes cell phones can be useful in some classes.
Other professors agreed.
“If it’s being used in the proper context or class, then I’m for it,” Castleton history professor Mike Austin said. “But if they are texting their friends or whoever it is, then it’s obviously a distraction. But we need a realistic situation for them to be used in.”
Art professor Phil Whitman said phones can be useful for students to “look up some of the images, paintings and information’s that we use in class.” But he said he “frowns upon” the more common uses.
Whitman isn’t as easy going as English Professor Denny Shramek when it comes to cell phone use.
“I try to find humor in the situation. Never once have I exploded on a student for having their phone go off in class,” he said.” “I’m sure some (teachers) would however, if they saw a phone go off.”
There is hope, however, for teachers who think all students are tethered to their phones whether in class or out.
Senior Ethan Hipko is one of those who say he can wait.
“I don’t really use my phone in class, honestly. If my phone goes off then I might glance at it, but I’m not one of those who has to be on it, constantly,” he said.