On the first day of classes each semester, Karen Riggs stands before her students and lays out her cardinal rule: do not use cell phones in class.

"What I say in my syllabus is 'If I catch you with a cell phone, you lose a half a point off your final grade ... You will also go straight to hell,' " Riggs, a professor and coordinator of the Scripps College of Communication Social Media Certificate, said.

In her 16 years of teaching, Riggs has never allowed the use of cell phones in her classroom. Among many other faculty members, she finds it insulting when a student uses technology during class.

"I cannot win if I'm competing for their attention," Riggs said.

One of Riggs' major concerns with using technology in class is that students become easily distracted. While Riggs said typing notes is more efficient, usually the information is in one ear and out the other.

"You're not making judgments on what's most important ... and you're also not concentrating on what is being said," Riggs said.

Jennifer Howell, an assistant professor of psychology, shares a similar opinion on using technology in the classroom. Without the ability to handwrite notes in class, a student's brain has less understanding of the material being learned, she said.

"Research broadly suggests that people who use technology or have their phones out learn less," Howell said.

To further prove that idea, Howell sets up her classroom in a different way than most. The first two rows are "technology free," where students are required to handwrite their notes while keeping their phones away at all times. In the back of the classroom are "distraction zones," where students may use their laptops and cell phones at their own risk.

After each exam, Howell reports back to the class how the first two rows performed compared to the rest of the class, and gradually sees more of her students choosing to handwrite their notes instead.

Howell and Riggs' concerns do have merit to them. In a 2010 study done with 62 undergraduate students for the Research in Higher Education Journal, experimenters split the students into two groups: 31 students allowed to text during the lecture, and 31 students required to pay attention. The researchers found the students who were allowed to text during the lecture scored significantly lower than the control group on a quiz.  

Astrid Gomez said she understands why some professors choose to keep students off their laptops, but that it also seems like a waste of time and effort. 

"No matter what, we're still going to use technology because we're so technology based," Gomez, a sophomore studying nursing, said. "And if not us, then the next generation will definitely be."

Some professors choose to embrace the use of technology in class as a way to engage with their students.

Shadrick Paris, an associate chemistry professor, uses the teaching platform Top Hat to share his presentations with students and interact with them. He asks questions during class that require students to submit answers via their phones or laptops.

"I don't feel that having the classroom be a place where the students only listen is beneficial," Paris said. "It's got to be an interactive process."

As Paris sees more students with laptops, he discourages other professors from banning technology from the classroom entirely.

"To say 'you can't use this device you've purchased for your education' is counterproductive," Paris said. "Isn't it up to us to find a way to take advantage of the fact that they have them?" 



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