A Portland English teacher who once took a student’s cellphone and tossed it in the wastebasket says her pupils shouldn’t be paying attention to anything else but her lessons in her classroom.

Some students, however, say that they can “multitask” by texting classmates and doing research on the Web while class is in session.

Despite the fact that our kids are much more electronically sophisticated and knowledgeable than their parents — and light years beyond their grandparents — we have to side with the teacher on this one.

Sarah Shmitt, who teaches English and world studies at Portland High School, is adamant about getting undivided attention in her classroom.

That’s true even though the Internet has made her alter her teaching methods: Where once she asked kids to read material for homework, the availability of condensed summaries and other references enables them to bypass the hard details with little effort.

So, they get essay questions for homework and do their reading — often in dramatic form out loud — in class.

Part of the problem is that phones and other devices aren’t used just to link kids to their friends, play games or access information. Parents want them handy so they can keep in contact for any number of reasons, some of which, such as arranging for outside lessons and medical appointments, seem worthwhile.

Still, barring real emergencies, such things can be kept outside of valuable classroom time.

In class, learning is a student’s full-time job.


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