It’s time we started exploring some of the tough questions on texting. The May issue of The Teaching Professor newsletter contains highlights from a survey of almost 300 marketing majors about their texting in class. The results confirm what I’m guessing many of us already suspect. A whopping 98% of the students reported that they had texted some time during the term in which the data was collected. They did so for an unimpressive set of reasons, the most popular being “I just wanted to communicate.” Fifty-six percent of the cohort said they were currently taking a class in which the teacher banned texting. Forty-nine percent said they texted anyway.
As I note in The Teaching Professor, this article is a great resource. It contains references to other studies documenting the use of texting and cell phones in college classes, and it features an excellent discussion of the physiological reasons why the human brain is not good at multitasking, despite the fact 47% of the students in this survey believe they can text and follow a lecture at the same time.
However, the real value of this research is that the findings and the authors raise tough questions about texting. Does it make sense to ban texting if students ignore the ban and teachers back away from enforcing it? Can a ban be enforced? How about in a large course, can it be enforced then? Should it be enforced? The researchers note that at one time most faculty objected when students brought food and drink into class and now that’s accepted in many classrooms. What are the costs of enforcing a “no texting” policy? Public altercations with students that erode the climate for learning in the classroom? But texting itself erodes the learning atmosphere of classroom, doesn’t it?