Thursday, January 18, 2018

Cell Phones are Banned in My Classes

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Warren Dunes State Park (Michigan)

This semester I am teaching one class - Philosophy of Religion - at MCCC. On my syllabus I put a skull and crossbones, with the words: No texting or laptops allowed in this class! I am a teacher. I want my students to learn the material. They will not learn it while multitasking with their cell phones.

Multitasking is the enemy of excellence. While doing a two year degree in music theory I was required to learn basic piano. I did not have a piano, so I went to the practice rooms in the music building. Have you ever seen a music practice room? It has no windows, bare walls, no pictures, no media, just a piano and piano bench. Why so austere? Because to learn piano all distractions must be removed. Serious piano players know this, and want it. They understand that distractions lead to mediocrity.

This is how it is with anything, to include relationships. Even our relationship with God.

So far, in my class, students have been respectful, and have stowed their cell phones away. (Thank you!) I consider this a minor miracle, since a growing number of students are addicted to their cell phones. They are neurally incapable of existing with them. Many students do not know what to do if they cannot text while in class. This feels like a violation of their human rights. My response is: no one can learn philosophy, or anything, while multitasking. 

The beast every teacher today fights against is cell phone addiction. This is addiction, not rebellion. Many have become "behavioral addicts."

Check yourself here. Perhaps this is you. For one of the best explanations of this, see NYU professor Adam Alter's Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked. Alter writes:

"One recent study suggested that up to 40 percent of the population suffers from some form of Internet-based addiction, whether to email, gaming, or porn. Another found that 48 percent of its sample of U.S. university students were “Internet addicts,” and another 40 percent were borderline or potential addicts. [That's 88%!] When asked to discuss their interactions with the Internet, most of the students gravitated toward negative consequences, explaining that their work, relationship, and family lives were poorer because they spent too much time online." (Kindle Locations 340-344) 

Cell phone addicts are "nomophobic." This is a term researchers have invented to describe the fear of being without mobile phone contact ("no-mobile-phobia"; see Alter, Kindle Location 207). Nomophobics suffer the "loss of ability to choose freely whether to stop or continue the behavior (loss of control) and [the] experience of behavior-related adverse consequences." (Alter, Kindle Locations 333-334) 

One adverse consequence is diminished cognitive ability. Nicholas Carr writes:

"A pair of Cornell researchers divided a class of students into two groups. One group was allowed to surf the Web while listening to a lecture. A log of their activity showed that they looked at sites related to the lecture's content but also visited unrelated sites, checked their e-mail, went shopping, watched videos, and did all the other things that people do online. The second group heard the identical lecture but had to keep their laptops shut. Immediately afterward, both groups took a test measuring how well they could recall the information from the lecture. The surfers, the researchers report, "performed significantly poorer on immediate measures of memory for the to-be-learned content." It didn't matter, moreover, whether they surfed information related to the lecture or completely unrelated content - they all performed poorly. When the researchers repeated the experiment with another class, the results were the same." (Carr, The Shallows, Kindle, 2,236-43)

Alter says we have become the "United States of Nomophobia." (Alter, Kindle Location 357) This would make us the fourth most populous country in the world, after China, India, and the United States. He writes:

"46 percent of people say they couldn’t bear to live without their smartphones (some would rather suffer physical injury than an injury to their phones)...  
... Up to 59 percent of people say they’re dependent on social media sites and that their reliance on these sites ultimately makes them unhappy. Of that group, half say they need to check those sites at least once an hour. After an hour, they are anxious, agitated, and incapable of concentrating. 
...Meanwhile, in 2015, there were 280 million smartphone addicts.
... Human attention is dwindling." (Kindle Locations 352-359).

Are you still here?

My cell phone is my shepherd,
I shall continuously want.
It makes me lie down with it,
it leads me beside restless waters,