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Teaching with Technology Survey

Survey: 1 in 4 Professors Ban Mobile Phone Use in Class

In our third annual Teaching with Technology Survey, a quarter of faculty respondents said they do not allow students to use mobile phones in the classroom.

students using cell phones in class

Should cell phones be permitted in class? In a recent survey of faculty members at colleges and universities across the country, feelings on the subject were mixed. While 26 percent of respondents said they do allow students to use mobile phones in the classroom, about the same number — 25 percent — said they do not. Half of respondents allow limited use of the devices.

Do you allow students to use mobile phones in your classroom?

These findings come out of Campus Technology's third annual Teaching with Technology Survey, which asked higher education faculty for their perspective on technology in the classroom, its impact on students and its potential in the future. A few of our survey respondents also shared their thoughts on mobile phone use in particular — revealing the complexity of the issue:

"I'm concerned about students and faculty feeling they always have to be connected. People need time away from their devices," noted a faculty member at a four-year public institution in Ohio. "I think that's getting harder to manage."

"Many people are anti-mobile phone use in the classroom," admitted another faculty member at a four-year private nonprofit institution in Texas, who saw a silver lining to the technology: "The one advantage is that the student can only look at one screen at a time, which actually helps their focus. If you can integrate learning activities that use the phone, the students really seem to better absorb the content."

And a faculty member at a four-year public institution in Michigan pointed out that students often don't see the learning potential of their devices: "My students only know how to use their smartphones to call/text/play games/monitor social media — they do not see their smartphones as micro-computers that can do so much more."

Learning tool or no, the mobile phone is one of students' top two favorite technologies to use in the classroom, according to our survey. Forty-nine percent of faculty respondents said laptops were the most popular device used by their students, with mobile phones coming in second at 38 percent. Smart watches were deemed the least favorite device used by students, garnering zero responses.

Most popular technology used by students

Where are all these mobile devices coming from? Forty-one percent of respondents said their institutions require students to provide their own devices, and 21 percent said their institutions provide all or some students with devices. At 79 percent of institutions represented in our survey, no devices are provided (but they are not necessarily required).

Institutions providing computing devices to students

About half of faculty respondents (54 percent) believe their institutions should provide devices to all students, to some extent. Slightly more (59 percent) think students should provide their own devices.

Do you think institutions should provide devices to all students?
Do you think students should provide their own devices?

With all those devices in class, we wondered about students' technology use at home — specifically, their access to the internet. Just 17 percent of faculty respondents said they believe all of their students have internet access at home, while 60 percent believe at least three-quarters of their students have access.

Percentage of students believed to have internet access at home

A significant number of respondents — 19 percent — admitted that they have no idea whether their students have home internet access. That's somewhat surprising, since 92 percent of respondents assign homework that requires the use of technology (and presumably the internet), but only 6 percent of respondents' institutions provide internet access at home for students in need.

Therein lies the digital divide, as one faculty member at four-year private nonprofit institution in Iowa pointed out: "Broadband capability is still an issue in rural areas and impacts many students and families. There will never be 100 percent access for all students in their homes. It is simply not feasible logistically or financially."

Note: We will post more results from the survey over the coming weeks. You can check back for ongoing coverage in our Research section.

Who Responded

Our survey polled 161 faculty members across the United States about the use of technology in higher education. The majority of respondents (67 percent) come from public institutions, with 29 percent from private nonprofits and 4 percent working at for-profit schools. Sixty-seven percent work at four-year colleges or universities; 26 percent are at community colleges; and 7 percent designated their institutional level as "other."

Respondents represent institutions of a range of sizes, with 46 percent working in colleges or universities with 10,000 students or more. Twenty-five percent of respondents are from institutions with 2,500 to 9,999 students; 16 percent from institutions with 1,000 to 2,400 students; and 13 percent from institutions counting under 1,000 students.

Sixty percent of respondents have 21-plus years of experience in the education field, while 30 percent have 11 to 20 years of experience under their belts. Just 2 percent are newbies with under five years of experience.

Respondents work in a variety of disciplines, ranging from pharmacy and law to humanities and engineering. The top two most common school and college types represented were education (38 percent of respondents) and business/business administration (26 percent).

The top states with the most survey respondents are Texas, New York, California, Florida, Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.

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