April 13, 2011
Faculty at The College of Wooster have become more creative in their efforts to curb cell phone calls and texting in the classroom.
WOOSTER, Ohio — Like their colleagues at colleges and universities across the country, faculty members at The College of Wooster believe in the freedom of expression…unless it rings, beeps, buzzes, vibrates, or creates some other disruptive sound in the classroom. Cell phones have long been a threat to the academic process, but in recent years, Wooster professors are rising up to silence these devices with a range of novel consequences.
If your phone rings in Patty Tovar’s Spanish class, for example, you better answer in Español. Unless of course she gets there first and says to the party on the other line, “At this moment, so-and-so is busy and cannot come to the phone. Please send him/her an e-mail next time. Muchas gracias. Adios."
A similar fate awaits those who happen to call students in one of Henry Kreuzman’s philosophy classes, including one very unlucky caller who was supposed to be in that class that day and was stunned to hear the professor’s voice on the other end. The consequences for offenders in Erik Loomis’s history class are more simple and direct — a cold, icy stare from the professor.
Setsuko Matsuzawa, assistant professor of sociology and anthropology makes her students sing if the phone rings during class. Unfortunately, it has not been as much of a deterrent as she had hoped. Some of the students get a kick out of getting up in front of the class and crooning or belting. Sometimes, the classmates even sing along.
Most professors have provisions about cell phones in the class syllabus, and most students are smart enough to turn off the ringer during class, but it does happen once or twice in a semester, according to Pam Pierce, professor of mathematics at Wooster. “Typically, faculty will either ignore it, stop class and have everyone look in the direction of the ringer (to embarrass the person), or make a joke if the timing is right,” she said. “If this were to happen repeatedly, then most of us would speak to the class or pull the student aside for an individual conversation.”
The bigger problem these days, not surprisingly, is texting. “What we all notice is that many more students now keep their phones on the desk alongside their notes during class,” said Pierce. “We suspect that this is so that they can read incoming texts during class time — you know, multitasking. The incidence of texting during class seems to be increasing, but it is difficult to catch because it can be done more discretely.”
Judy Amburgey-Peters, associate professor of chemistry, says that if she suspects a student is texting during class, she will ask them if they are taking notes. “One student was so caught off guard that he actually answered ‘yes,’” she said.
Eventually, even the most cunning students get caught, and when they do, it won’t be a case of LOL, but rather SOL.
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