College Professor Challenges Students to Give Up Cellphones for a Week

The "Life Unplugged" first-year seminar is designed to challenge students' use and perception of technology.

Could you go an entire week without using your cellphone?

That's the challenge Adelphi University Professor Donna Freitas, Ph.D., put to her first-year students as part of a seminar called "Life Unplugged." 

The students voluntarily turned in their phones to the university's public safety officers so they wouldn't be tempted to cheat, and then they challenged themselves to wake up on time, take notes, communicate and find their way around without the slew of apps they usually use for those things. They made plans to communicate with family and friends via email or land line phones, and designated emergency contacts to assuage any fears. Freitas also gave up her phone as part of the experiment.

"I’ve become more and more concerned by my students’ inability to sustain attention," Freitas explained on the university's website. "I’m interested in them just experiencing life and conversation and relationships without constantly grabbing for their phones."

The experiment was designed to make students ask themselves "What does it mean to live constantly interrupted?" she added. 

Jacob Dannenberg was one of the students who participated. He used an old-school alarm clock, handwritten notes and a regular old wristwatch to get by, WCBS in New York reported

At first, some of the students said they were worried about how they would fare. But a week later, they had seen some real benefits. 

"Everything is perfect right now. I'm having a lot better relationships," Dannenberg told WCBS after the experiment was over. "It's a stress-free environment, no worries about social media." 

Other students told the station they felt more relaxed and refreshed after they unplugged, which just may make the rest of us want to give it a try, too.