We do it late at night. We do it at the dinner table and while crossing busy streets. We do it at school behind closed doors. We do it so much our thumbs become sore.

It seems like everywhere you look you can see the brisk thumb symphony that is text messaging. Spurred by the unlimited texting plans offered by carriers like AT&T Mobility, Sprint Nextel and Verizon Wireless, American teenagers deliver more SMS (short message service) text messages than telephone calls. Teenagers on average send and receive 2,272 text messages per month, according to the Nielsen Company.

The trend is worrying parents, physicians, and psychologists, who believe texting is leading to anxiety, distraction in school, failing grades, stress and sleep loss. Educators argue texting threatens to eclipse the real reason students go to school: to learn.

California has imposed a ban on drivers talking on cell phones and text messaging. Will the mobile phone ban extend to classrooms next? Beginning this fall at every Templeton Unified School District campus, all electronic devices must be turned off and out of sight during the school day.

Rather than banning text messaging and cell phones at school, we need to embrace mobile phones to improve learning.

No one can stop the communication revolution. Although controversial, students have invented a new shortened language. Some balk at text terminologies and informal use of grammar, but it still is inventing. It sets a context for creative discussions and language that could provide a teaching opportunity if educators are willing to take advantage of it.

Teachers can learn from students. They can ask students to verify information via their cell phones – from dates, to events, to speeches – any reference at all. Professors can even send questions, reminders or homework assignments via text. Using phones keeps students on task and provides them with a learning opportunity.

Taking away cell phones doesn’t solve the root of the problem. Without a phone, students will go back to traditional distractions: passing notes, doodling and daydreaming. A person’s motivation determines their success.

Today’s students are part of a multi-tasking generation. What many adults consider distracting simply isn’t. Some students argue text messaging actually helps them stay awake in class. As long as they are constantly doing something, they won’t completely zone out.

Often, students rely on having their mobile phones in class because of the convenience and safety factors.

“I can’t count how many times I have had to text my roommates when I get out of class early for a ride home so I didn’t have to walk alone in the dark,” said liberal studies senior Caitlin Adams.

Prompted by the Virginia Tech shootings, the Cal Poly Emergency Notification System was set up in January 2008. The service allows the University Police Department to text message students, faculty and staff in the event of an emergency posing an imminent physical threat to the campus community. It can be accessed via the Cal Poly portal.

This is just one example of how mobile can be used to benefit students.

Although they’ve never needed to use the service, the University Police Department continues to test the system on the second Wednesday of every month, Chief of Police Bill Watton said.

In the end, long division via iPhone is much faster than via paper. But which device’s answer is better?

Join the Conversation


  1. I’m sorry, but asking students to “verify” info using their cell phones is quite possibly the stupidest idea EVER. Personally I find it completely distracting when people sit there texting and you can HEAR the button taps over and over and over again. Put your damn phone away and pay attention! It’s completely disrespectful to your fellow students and teachers to sit there texting.
    Also, the online language is not inventive. It’s lazy and it makes you look like a complete moron if you use it.

  2. This is absolute nonsense. Technology should be embraced in classrooms, but communication devices only offer distraction.

    “Teachers can learn from students. They can ask students to verify information via their cell phones – from dates, to events, to speeches – any reference at all. Professors can even send questions, reminders or homework assignments via text. Using phones keeps students on task and provides them with a learning opportunity.”

    Who in their right mind would use their cellphone to verify information? Have you tried scouring a professional or educational journal network? They are hard enough to navigate on a full computer let alone a miniature web browser best suited to Facebook. What is wrong with asking students to spend a little time out of class doing fact-checking and researching? As students, you should do this anyway. Being skeptical and not taking lectures for fact without verification is key to the learning process.

    However, there is not nearly enough time to dig through Wikipedia, check it sources, question the teacher and still take notes and understand your lecture.

    Also, I get enough useless garbage electronically. I don’t need a teacher to remind me that something is due through a text message. I’m 22 years old, I am fully capable of managing my time. If something must be communicated outside of class, an email is much simpler and better for archival purposes anyway.

  3. Okay, to state the obvious… you’ve got to be kidding yourself if you think texting during class will “enhance your learning experience.” Paying attention to the lecture will benefit you more than paying attention to your phone, no matter how your put a spin on it. However, this still does not give the school the right to ban texting, so long as it’s not creating a distraction to other students. There are several legitimate reasons I can think of off the top of my head, such as coordinating a ride home, dealing with a family situation, or letting a friend know if you’ll be out early. It may not be the best way to get on your professor’s good side, but you’re paying to be in the class…your choice how to use the time, not the nanny state’s.

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