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Updated 10:00 AM July 10, 2006




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With this ring: No bliss from cell phone noises in college classes

It's the sound that Scott W. Campbell and many professors dread while teaching in class—a ringing cell phone.

Campbell, who teaches at U-M, was not surprised by findings indicating that cell phones in college classrooms are a serious source of distraction. In fact, students as well as professors who participated in his research support formal policies restricting their use.

"We are moving toward a common etiquette for cell phone use in certain settings, but you'd be surprised how often we still get interrupted by it during class," says Campbell, an assistant professor and Pohs Fellow of Telecommunications in the Department of Communication Studies. "Depending on what's going on at the time, it can be very distracting, not to mention rude. Hopefully these findings will help lay the groundwork for future research and solutions for alleviating the problem."

Campbell's findings appear in the July issue of Communication Education. The study, "Perceptions of Mobile Phones in College Classrooms: Ringing, Cheating, and Classroom Policies," involved a survey assessing attitudes about the cell phone as a distraction during class, a potential source for cheating, and policies banning the technology's use in class. The sample included 176 student and faculty participants from a university in the western United States. Both users and non-users of the technology were included in the study, although most (84 percent) owned a cell phone.

While the general sentiment among the respondents was that mobile phones in college classrooms could be a serious problem, younger participants—who are more inclined than their older counterparts to use cell phones—reported more tolerance for this practice. Campbell says this finding is consistent with other research showing that the technology has become a particularly important social resource in the everyday lives of young people.

Based on the number of participants and nature of the sample, Campbell points out that his study is exploratory in nature, and that its findings are intended to help further the dialogue on this topic and prompt more research. For example, if the findings for support for formal policies were accurate, a next step would be to determine how effective these policies would be to reduce cell phone intrusions during class.

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