The virtues of actually paying attention
By Cazzy Lewchuk, Interim Opinions Editor
Cell phones are an essential part of class—whether the prof lets you have them on the desk, or you gotta be discreet with your crotch, all of us know the feeling of glancing during lectures at that screen.
It pains me to preach about it; for almost every course I’ve ever taken, I was on my phone from the very first class. But the truth is, actually putting your phone away is one of the best things you can do for yourself. It really does help you learn.
Many classes are boring, and seem like repeats of what you read in the textbook. The entire lecture’s notes are available online! You can always read them later—why did you even bother coming to the class? The minute details of biochemistry can wait, you think, as you glance at your Facebook timeline, or re-blog something.
No doubt, paying attention in class helps you to understand the material better. But a better reason to abandon your phone is to help you understand the class structure itself. Are there ever group activities, or participation assignments? Does the professor never diverge from the notes, or is the lecture full of additional—and perhaps even useful—content? Are your classmates furiously scribbling notes, or just as not-so-discreetly checking their phones as you are?
If you’re not on your phone and still bored as hell, make some notes. Even if it’s the same material as what is written on the lecture slides, copy it down anyway. It stays in your brain better. If you have the textbook with you, find that section and copy anything not covered on the slides. You never know when the prof may actually make a useful point that’s missed because you were too busy on your phone. Phones distract more than you think, even if you’re like me and mastered the art of being on it while not missing anything whatsoever.
If you have sat through a full four weeks of lecture and done all you could to be more productive during class time, then it’s okay to start sneaking some phone time in there. At this point, you’ll know the nature of the class. It could be one where playing on your phone will not significantly decrease your learning, or it could be one where being on your phone means missing really, really important information. But the point is, you’ll know.
We all pay money to attend school, and each class in session is a portion of that money. You’re paying cash to be educated here; you might as well try to avoid distractions from giving you that education.
At least for the first month.