Pay Attention In Class

So one day in class I looked up and saw everyone had a browser open on their screens or was fiddling with their phones or messing around with their tablets. I was looking up from my phone by the way and it struck me how much learning had changed. I felt for the lecturer a bit because just a few years back, he’d have had the undivided attention of the class while he postulated about whatever he was trying to pass across. How did it feel talking to thirty people while twenty of them were distracted?

First of all, is this distraction a good thing or a bad thing? I once had a class where we were given slinky coils to fiddle with while the lecture was going on. They said studies indicated that people concentrated better in class when they had something to fiddle with in their hands. So during class, we’d be forming the coils into new shapes and bouncing them around, generally getting the coils to misbehave and laughing quietly at some of the funny shapes we invented. I remember really liking the class and looking back on it as one of the most interesting courses I’d been in. It’s possible that having something to play with in class helps you stay awake and interested while the snippets of information diffuse into your brain from the lecturer’s lips.

I remember other classes I had where phones were not allowed. Half the class would be asleep. I sat in front to fight this sleep but I tell you, sometimes I must have embarrassed myself, my family and my country with my mouth drooping, pen falling from paw, head backward falling reverse nods. Because when the time came to review the slides for the exam, almost everything came across as brand new, like I’d never seen it before. Either I was in Total Recall sleep in class without my knowledge or I was sleeping with my eyes wide open. Many of my classmates reported the same unfamiliarity with the course material. I could explain the phenomenon to some of them with candid camera photos I’d taken of them in their sleeping moments.

You see, man was originally very active. Hunting, gathering, farming, dancing round the fire, swinging through the branches, etc. Now all of a sudden you want to take that active mind and force it to focus on just one thing/topic for a long period? Who does that?! No! We resist! We will not be taken alive by the kingdom of boredom! So if you’re like me, you’ll tend to shut down and sleep, kind of keeping the dogs of boredom and brain cell damage at bay.

So, do you think lecturers should allow students fiddle with their phones in class? Is the question of lack of respect really still valid? Isn’t the point to attend and pass the tests? Do we have to sit enthralled at your feet for three hours on end, hanging on to every word falling from your mouth like you were the Guru himself in order to understand what you’re trying so disinterestedly to say?

I don’t think so.

It’s the child he loves that God corrects;
a father’s delight is behind all this.
(Prov. 3 vs 12, The Message)


I love to learn. I love to teach. For me the two are the same.


  • Joy says:

    I think I have some form of adult ADHD and when I saw the title,I was like ‘great! Just the motivation I need to focus’. I was wrong lol. I think it depends on many factors like ones personality type really ‘cos people learn differently, subject being taught, teaching methods employed etc. So I guess the question is what is best for the majority of the class when all these factors and more are considered. Personally, I like breaks after every 30 or so minutes…

  • Abigail says:

    I agree with Joy. I have a son who learns better when he is allowed to fiddle with things and ‘play’…well he is mostly listening and I can see that from eye contact. When it comes to a classroom, it depends. Phones can be distracting because when your phone rings, you’d want to take the call. You can send instant messages and get distracted by the internet. so I don’t think playing with phones is appropriate. I usually have a clean sheet in front of me and create images based on what I hear. Attention is getting shorter and shorter though and as long as it is not a one on one class, teachers need to do what works for most people.

  • Anonymous says:

    That’s me! 10mins is a long time…

  • naijawife says:

    I had a professor who banned laptops in his classroom. I did not like him very much.

  • Jk_McDazzles says:

    I sat on the front seat in class most times in university. The major reason was that the lecturer usually had eyes on those at the back and as such, I could do whatever I wanted to distract myself with, often writing and drawing and doign assignments from other courses..
    Thinking back now, actuallly, most of the great write ups i penned were done during lectures and when exams or tests came, I did well in those courses too because I remembered everything, or almost everything
    Sooooo….”Welcome to the best of both worlds…”

  • Phones in class? Not really advisable in this era of twitter intrigue. Doodling is more approiprate (i think) .

    Back then, I use to scribble definitions in pidgin. All I have to do is remember the funny scribbles on exam day & voila.

  • Jk_McDazzles says:

    @Trafels Seriously?! Scribbling definitions in pidgin! You’re on a different level man.

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