Texting in class: a high-tech distraction in the Shenandoah Valley

A W&L student stealthily texts during class.
A W&L student stealthily sends a text message during class.

Whether it’s done under the table, in one’s lap, or out in the open, texting in class is an issue that affects universities nationwide.

According to a University of Nebraska-Lincoln study, the average college student uses his or her cell phone nearly 11 times a day while in class. Over 80 percent of the students who participated in the study admitted that their learning was hindered because they used their cell phones so frequently in class. Likewise, over 25 percent said that texting in class caused their academic performance to suffer.

UNL study about texting in class

Texting in class plagues universities all across the map, and Washington and Lee is no exception. Ever since the advent of cell phones, W&L professors have been forced to deal with the distractions caused by students texting during their classes. Two such professors, Scott Boylan and Tim Gaylard, both admit that texting is a common occurrence on campus. However, both professors’ opinions regarding such an issue varied.

Tim Gaylard, a music professor at W&L, is largely opposed to the idea of students texting while in his class. “It’s distracting for students to be texting, but I don’t mind students using electronic devices if it’s related to the course,” he said. “If it’s not related to the course, it shouldn’t be going on during the class.” On his syllabus, Gaylard requests that cell phones be switched off during class and also states that students’ grades will be severely affected if they use cell phones for things not related to the course.

Gaylard recounted one particular class in which he was teaching on the film, “Singin’ in the Rain.” He was telling the class that the directors added milk to the water to make the raindrops appear on camera. Gaylard said that one of his students immediately raised his hand and said that, according to his cell phone, milk was not used in the film. Gaylard said that this was one of the few instances in which he applauded cell phone use in the classroom.

On the other hand, Scott Boylan, an accounting professor at W&L, does not mind when students text during his class. He admitted that professors also use their phones during faculty meetings, so students should not be treated any differently. He added that although he was once insulted when students texted during his class, he is now mostly neutral to such an occurrence. “I’m largely indifferent to texting in class as long as it doesn’t create a disturbance to other people,” he said. “I guess it’s up to the students to decide what they want to focus their attention on.”

It is not surprising that W&L students were largely in favor of being allowed to use cell phones in class when asked. One such student, Dakota Walker ’17, believes that cell phones should be allowed in the classroom. “Students should be allowed to text in class,” she said. “I don’t see a problem as long as they’re not being disruptive or taking away from other students’ learning.”

Tech-savvy college students create app to reward other college students for not texting in class


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Business Journalism student and aspiring journalist at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, VA.

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