Banning cell phones from class helps students focus

A UMKC professor is among those cracking down

KANSAS CITY, Missouri - 12:55 p.m. There's still some time before UMKC professor Dr. Kathleen Kilway’s organic chemistry class to send one last text or check Facebook, and then shut off your phone. Because you defniitely don't want it to ring during class. If it does, she’ll take it away from you for the rest of the hour.

She has a strict no-electronics rule. Not to be anti-tech, but to keep the focus where it should be.

"The problem comes from the fact that we're all really distracted and it's really easy to be distracted," Kilway said.

She freely admits that she's addicted to her own Blackberry. She also knows how distracting it can be at the wrong time. That can be bad for both the student using the phone and those sitting nearby.

"So rather than having the distraction there, why not just basically remove all the distractions,” Kilway said. “I have 50 minutes with these students, who are great students, but we have to get through a lot of material."

A recent study from Wilkes University in Pennsylvania found that nearly all college students bring their cell phones to class, and most text during class. Only about a quarter felt it was a distraction. Still, Kilway and others are cracking down. The students we talked with were fine with that.

"Many people that go to class, they don't ever listen. They just sit there and they get on their phone," said Aaron Tillery, a UMKC sophomore.

Senior Rita Morales agreed. “You're really not paying that much attention as you would if you didn't have it in class to begin with," she said.

Kilway says the atmosphere in her classroom is better with no phones.

"You sort of have this feeling of 'We're in it together,' and you can see a cohesiveness at some point in a class if you're doing the right thing as an instructor," Kilway said.

She explains the rule at the beginning of every semester, but she inevitably has to “borrow” a few phones in the first few class sessions. After that, most everyone catches on.

She is willing to grant exceptions in some cases when a student needs to be in touch with someone, as long as they explain the circumstances to her first.

The policy also helps cut down on cheating during tests. Students tend to follow the rule, and Dr. Kilway tells us she doesn't use multiple choice questions, which makes it much harder to cheat.

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