Check out my page on current research findings about texting in class – who does it, how many do it, why, and what are the effects of the distraction. Lots of surveys and experiments have been done and I’ll summarize their findings here.

True story: Before a tough final exam in a difficult course, I gave the usual spiel. “Turn off your phones for the exam, not mute or on vibrate, turn them off and put them away in your bags, not in your pockets!”

And a half hour later, just when the students were getting focused and productive, the mobile phone of a student sitting right in the middle of the classroom rang with a loud and obnoxious ring tone. The student frantically hunted through her bag for the phone while the class and I stared at her annoyed. It rang four times before she found it. Unbelievably, she then pulled it out and looked at it! The ringing stopped. The class settled back to their exam, with a lot of rustling and squirming. The offending student was red with embarrassment.

Another twenty minutes went by. The class started on the really tough essay questions, and were writing frantically when – and I’m not kidding – the same phone rang again! Another four loud and obnoxious rings before the student found it and silenced it. The other students began to laugh at her, the giggles multiplying around the classroom, doubling the distraction.

This is a real puzzle – why would a student come to an exam with their phone, and leave it turned on after being told to turn it off? Why would she then look at it after it rang in the middle of an exam? What effect did this interruption have on her, and on her classmates’, exam scores?

One of my colleagues actually had a student in an exam answer his ringing phone, get up, and walk out of the classroom, telling the instructor “I have to take this call”.

This, and the lesser violation of texting in class, happens in class all the time. I’ve even seen this happen during plays and even during a group meditation.

Kind of a big violation not just of exam security and class attention, but also of the rules of politeness and empathy, to be considerate and thoughtful of other people’s needs.

Wouldn’t you think that even if we might forget our phone-etiquette while in public, we would at least remember during an exam? Or during a group meditation? Or in a dangerous situation like driving or crossing a busy street? Not very adaptive! Socially or physically. Clearly, we have already become so attached to or even addicted to our techy BFF that we don’t – or can’t – simply TURN. IT. OFF!

That has become, literally, unthinkable.