Bluetooth: another accessory, another distraction

Originally created in 1999, Bluetooth has become a must-have technology for many of today’s students. The tech was developed by Ericsson and named for a former Danish king, Harald “Bluetooth” Blatand, who is known for uniting the disparate Danish tribes under the flag of Christianity. Similarly, Bluetooth technology seeks to unite wireless devices universally.

Bluetooth has a number of functions, from linking laptops with cellular phones to wireless video game controllers. Despite this diversity, the most visible application of the technology is the luminous blue accessories stylishly latched to people’s ears.

Africana Studies professor Bryan Shuler, in an interview conducted via Bluetooth headset, spoke in praise of this technology, but also expressed reservations about its place in the classroom.

“Students will sit in the back of the class and speak on their wireless headset,” Shuler said. “They think that no one will notice because they don’t have a phone pressed up against their head, but what I do see is this Mr. Spock-looking contraption in their ear. They are losing because they aren’t able to concentrate on the subject. They are affecting their grade in a class that they are paying for. This also affects their GPA, which affects their career. That is a lot to risk just to talk to their girlfriend about nothing.”

But it’s not just the classroom where the Bluetooth headsets are causing a stir. Many students have found themselves in the awkward situation of walking to class or the Library alongside a person holding a conversation with seemingly no one.

John Koren, a junior chemistry major and Bluetooth user, spoke about Bluetooth-related confusion.

“It’s especially awkward in a closed situation like an elevator when it’s just you and one other person,” Koren said. “They say, ‘Hey, how’s it going?’ and then look at you like you’re crazy when you answer them.”

Bluetooth awkwardness is not just limited to on-campus encounters. Students are having run-ins with Bluetooth phones in their daily work, as well. David Coen, a junior history major, is familiar with the confusion the cell phones can cause in a retail setting.

“I used to work at a retail store and I used to see people walk in from the street and (wonder) whether they were a crazy person,” Coen said.

Bluetooth headsets do have practical applications. They make driving and speaking on the phone easier.

“It’s great for driving,” Koren said. “You can use your phone without having to touch your phone. While I’m driving I can say ‘Call Jacob,’ and it will dial up Jacob. I don’t have to touch anything, I don’t have to think about anything, just keep my eyes on the road.”

Shuler related the concept to laptops, saying, “It’s like laptops – they have so much potential to help students, but often they will sit in class distracting themselves and other students by playing poker rather than taking notes.

“This technology is great,” Shuler said. “It allows me to drive safely while conducting this interview. But like cell phones, it has no place in the classroom.”