75 minutes without Facebook: Is that so hard?

An English professor at Mount Wachusett Community College, Susan Coleman Goldstein has learned something by taking a computer skills class during her sabbatical:  Class time is social media time for many students. The girl sitting next to her in the computer lab writes to friends and flips through Facebook photos, swiftly minimizing the page when the instructor walks by.

When I stand in front of this same room as a professor, and see students typing busily on their computers, I know now that they may well be responding to a remark that a friend posted on their Facebook wall. When I see them staring so intently at their computer screens and I am thinking they are absorbed in writing their drafts, I know now that they may be flipping through someone’s photos from a party the night before. When I walk to the back of the room, and up and down the aisles, and see only a Word document open on their screens, I know now not to feel so smug, because Facebook, if not minimized, can be easily accessed when I walk out of view—even though I have a written policy on my syllabus prohibiting use of social media in class, even though I warn them out loud, and even though I patrol the aisles as much as I can.

As a student, she finds her neighbor’s flashing photos distracting. As an instructor, she thinks it’s rude. “Why do students need to log into Facebook during class? Why can’t they just leave it alone for 75 minutes?”

But students say they’re just taking a break: Nobody pays attention all the time. Goldstein wonders if she should accept this: 

 If a student can zone out and still stay on track with the course material, should scrolling through Facebook pictures during class bother me at all? If students fall behind because they are not listening, and are instead engaged in social media, isn’t that the unfortunate choice they have made?

But it’s discouraging to be ignored by students who are too busy chatting with friends to react to their professor’s questions.

POSTED BY Joanne Jacobs ON May 19, 2011

Comments & Trackbacks (4) | Post a Comment

[…] students show up for class, then spend 75 minutes checking Facebook photos, sending Tweets to friends and ignoring the professor.  She thinks it’s rude. They […]

Mike Anderson

Aw, let ‘em be. Everyone deserves the chance to fail.


Maybe no class-time should be given at all for working on drafts on a computer.

Give lecture notes where students have to actually “write” on paper and turn something in, have students answer questions or do an outline “by hand”, or do an activity that doesn’t involve the computer.

Pass out the writing assignment and tell those who want help to come and see you during next class-time if they have questions. Collect their assignments the following class. Less frustration for you having to worry about them wasting their time!


My husband used to do the crossword puzzle in his lecture classes. I would sometimes read the paper (all folded up so it would be less obvious). I wonder if Facebook just changes the medium.

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