University professors have mixed feelings towards airpods


photo illustration by Sarah Ingram

Technological advancements may be perceived as both positive and negative when it comes to the classroom, according to Marshall University professors. However, while computers and projectors may have benefits to teaching, other devices, such as airpods, may be harming students’ ability to acquire skills that will be helpful in their future careers. 

“Communication, body language, values, those soft skills are what you learn at college and you can’t do that if you are always on the technology,” Uday Tate, a marketing professor, said. “If you wear them (airpods), you can’t be multitasking. Listening is a one-way thing, and students need to focus.”

Tate also said his course policy includes asking students to leave the classroom if they are not paying attention to speakers and presentations because of technology. 

In addition to affecting communication skills, some professors, including Brian Antonsen an associate professor from the College of Science, said that wearing airpods, or any earphones, in the classroom is a form of self-sabotage. He also said that he is not concerned if students disrupt their own learning, but he will address unnecessary uses of technology when they start affecting other students’ ability to concentrate on information.

“People are going to not pay attention for whatever reason of their own volition, I’m not going to argue with them,” Antonsen said. “So people who are going to pull out whatever, not just airpods, if they are going to do that in their classes is their choice, and they probably aren’t going to do as well. As soon as somebody else starts to get distracted though, then I tell people to put them away.”

Yet not all professors are seeing a problem with airpods. Anna Rollins, an English professor and the director of Marshall’s Writing Center, said she believes she has only seen one or two students that have the devices in, but they have taken the airpods out when needed. 

“I think if I saw students with airpods I would just ask them to take them out so that we are all in the same space,” Rollins said. “It can be tempting to have devices that close in your ear. I know I would be tempted to do something else instead of pay attention, so I’m sure students would be tempted, too.”

Rollins went on to say that she believes technology can be very helpful in the classroom as long as students are focused on their work. 

“I think that it (technology) can be a great asset to the classroom,” she said. “I can’t see why students would want to keep those in while talking in these classes because there is too much communication.

Another associate professor in the School of Nursing, Bobbie Taylor, who primarily teaches classes in the nursing master’s program, said she does not often see an issue with airpods in her courses, but it could be because the class is based on communicating and talking through different situations. 

“My classes are all lecture based, so I can’t imagine why a student would want to have them in because we are talking the whole time,” she said. “There’s interaction back and forth, so there would be no reason for them to wear earphones or airpods. In my classroom, personally, I don’t think I’ve seen anyone come in with them.”

She also said she believes that professors should adapt and embrace new technology since advancements will be made whether people like it or not. As of right now, the nursing classes she teaches do not have a technology policy in her syllabi, and she said she may address airpods if they become an issue.

“I just think academics is moving in the direction of technology,” she said. “For us to remain marketable in an academic setting, we have to be able to adapt and adjust to using technology in beneficial ways.”

Sarah Ingram can be contacted at [email protected]