Demon Debate: Should cell phones be allowed in the classroom? Faculty perspective

Demon Debate: Should cell phones be allowed in the classroom? Faculty perspective

CON: Elaine Eaton

Instructor, Theodore Harris Endowed Professor of Rhetoric & Debate

Department of New Media, Journalism, and Communication Arts


While I know it’s impossible to keep cell phones out of the classroom, I do my best to encourage students to “button up or zip up” their phones so we can focus on the contents of my course and, more importantly, the other human beings in the classroom.

I know that as an instructor I am not ALWAYS engaging, but I would rather my students be bored than distracted. Cell phones are a distraction.

Let me repeat, I would rather that if my students are not engaged in the lecture or group work that they are bored.

While this may seem strange coming from an instructor, research shows boredom is extremely important to creativity in humans.

According to the article “Bored & Brilliant” published by National Public Radio, “Studies suggest that we get our most original ideas when we stop the constant stimulation and let ourselves get bored, Zomorodi says.”

Even more importantly identity creation emerges from boredom.

“Zomorodi says studies also show that smartphones impinge on our ability to do ‘autobiographical planning’ or goal setting, which may keep us even more stuck in a rut,” according to the article “Bored & Brilliant” published by National Public Radio.

Ultimately, I want my students to find happiness, and one of the strongest indicators of happiness is how many interactions we have with other humans throughout the day. When you are on your phone you are literally making yourself less happy.

“The 80-year-long Grant & Glueck Harvard Study of Adult Development revealed that the close relationships you have, like spouses, family, friends, and social circles, can help you live longer and feel happier,” Yale professor Laurie Santos said.

These connections don’t have to be with family and close friends. Even interactions with strangers can be positive.

“Most people think a simple chat with a stranger will be awkward and not very good for well-being, but it turns out that simple connection with people we don’t know feels amazing. It’s a great way to feel less lonely and to boost our mood. Even for introverts,” Santos said.


PRO: Dr. Christopher Lyles

Director and Assistant Professor

School of Biological and Physical Science

The reason why I stopped fighting cell phones in the classroom is because I started doing a lot of work at the University of Louisiana System level. I remember watching or hearing some project about having anxiety and having problems when you don’t have the ability to click on your phone.

I could be separated from my phone when I was a professor, but in my current position I can’t be without my phone without having a sense of “am I missing the hundreds of emails that are coming in,” and I am always on some piece of technology from 8 am to 5 pm.

This has changed the way that I work because now I must check my phone, and if I do not check it then I feel very strange about it.

Now that being said, I don’t allow people to pull out their phones and start playing on them in my class.

In Bienvenu, there are glass walls on some of our classrooms, and I can go behind them and say, “you need to stop playing on your phone while the professor is lecturing.”

I do that all the time now, but I also designed some structured research activity within the class.

The research at the University of Louisiana System conference taught me that professors have about 15 minutes before students start getting fidgety.

If it’s a Tuesday and Thursday class I will stop and say, “I need you to research this question.” I will have them pull their phone out and research the answer to whatever question related to the lesson.

That small amount of interaction with their technology breaks up the class, and it makes everything a lot easier to move forward.