Have cell phones become an issue for the classroom and a distraction to young lives?
"In America, we've lost the ability to communicate without electronics."
These are the words of Leslie Rasmussen, an instructor at Iowa Central Community College. At one time or another, many people have seen a mob of students walking around a school or local college campus with their faces glued to their cell phones.
The cell phones are everywhere - in the library, in the hallways, and even though often against school policies, in the classroom.
At Iowa Central, teachers and students agree that texting on campus has created both advantages and disadvantages.
You forgot something in your dorm room and class is starting soon. You are going to be late for a meeting or group gathering. You need to tell your Mom something, but you know if you call, she will keep you on the phone for hours. Text messages are quick and to the point. They say what you want to say, without interfering with people's busy schedules.
There are people everywhere at school or on campus, and text messaging is private, where in public, a phone call is not. Text messaging allows for silent conversation between two people, and gives privacy to "talk" without the fear that other students will hear what is being said.
Text messages serve as reminders. With classes, homework, extra-curricular activities and a social life, the educational experience can become overwhelming. Laura Albers, a sophomore at Iowa Central, aid, "Every Wednesday, I go to dinner with a friend from school... I don't see her at all during the week, so text messages are an east way for me to touch base with her without having to take the time to call."
In other cases, students take advantage of cell phones' ability to store text messages for information they want to refer to later on.
Educational officials note that cell phones do play an important role in caes of emergency. At ICCC for example, a new Triton Alert program sends text messages to signed-up students when there are emergent situations on campus. Students may not always have access to their e-mail accounts, but more times than not, they have their cell phones.
There are disadvantages to the cell phone boom that have schools and colleges concerned, however.
When 15 students at Iowa Central were questioned, 12 said they use text messaging as a means to relieve boredom.
"The text messaging feature was probably created with necessity in mind, but it has turned into something else," freshman John Wolfe said. "We [students] can have entire conversations using text messages. It is VERY time consuming. Why not just call?"
It seems that an entire generation has nearly replaced phone calling with text messaging as a form of communication - but few seem to appreciate how much time is expended in the process of opening files, typing and sending the messages.
A few realize that overusing texting is beginning to impact their grades.
"I can start texting at 7 in the morning and not stop until midnight or after," one freshman student at Iowa Central, who chose not to be identified, said. "Some days I don't feel that I got anything of real value accomplished. All of my free time has been spent texting."
Sometimes students try to disregard policies against using cell phones in class, to discretely read and sent text messages. In more rare instances, students don't even try to hide their texting during class time, according to Iowa Central students. The result is that student in question is distracted from what they are supposed to be learning, and often those around them in the class are distracted as well.
Text messaging is an opportunity for students to cheat in class. Some teachers are more lenient than others in allowing the use of cell phones - but students are aware that texting could allow students in a class to retrieve answers or ask for answers from other students outside the classroom. Students in the class could also store or text questions from a test to other students who are not in the same class at the time.
There is also some concern that text messaging may keep students from having a vibrant social experience in college. Students who are constantly hunched over a phone, texting, may be seen as unapproachable by other students and educators. Some students feel that those who are especially involved in texting do not care to pay any mind to the environment they are in or the people around them every day.
Almost all students have seen some of the advantages and disadvantages of the texting lifestyle. School and college policies will not change how people perceive or use their cell phone technology. Whether it is an issue in education today, ultimately, will be up to the texer to decide for themselves.
ON THE WEB - The web program www.geomestic.com suggests that text messaging abuse may be the newest symptom of teen abuse. Often teens in abusive relationships will send or receive an excessive strem of text messages, e-mail or comments through social networks like MySpace - allowing an abuser to control the recipient and possibly bombard them with manipulative, aggressive, emotionally-damaging messages. If a teen gets numerous texts from the same person within an hour's time, it may be cause for concern of a possible abusive relationship for parents. "Even if text messaging seems innocent at first, abnormal texting is the first sign of a teen that can possibly become out of control," the website suggests.
* Bethany Jeffries is a freshman journalism student from Renwick who writes for the Iowa Central Community College "Collegian." Her work appears as part of the Pilot-Tribune's "Young Voices" initiative.