Image by In Veritas Lux via FlickrThis summer, spending more time at home with my teenage daughter, I had to confront my ambivalence about how we use cell phones in our society. On the one hand, I've been intrigued by the possibility of liberating the cell phone in the classroom, which would entail a fundamental shift in how many of us teach students -- a switch from a teacher-centered classroom to a project-based learning (PBL) environment. Here are some possibilities others are exploring:
But as much as I want to embrace this innovative, perhaps inevitable way of student learning, I am troubled by how cell phone use "causes" us to interact with others. I put the word, "causes" in quotes because I clearly feel that we have a choice: we don't have to respond to every bleep and blip emitted by this device, but it seems to me that the school-age culture doesn't share my view.
An example is how many teens equate texting with "talking"; i.e., that the message which has just appeared on the handheld screen is just as important as the conversation in front of them, or, just as important as the person in front of them with whom they may or may not be conversing. The New York Times published a tongue-in-cheek guide for parents and children called "Cellphone Etiquette for Kids", which did list some important implications of this explosion of technology. It advises kids to:
Look them [people around you] in the eyes. The technical term for it is “interpersonal communication” — and it’s such a big deal that the educational psychologist Howard Gardner counts it as a multiple intelligence. You don’t develop these skills if you’re glued to a screen.I frequently text friends and family but I draw lines when I am in the presence of others. But maybe I'm being too old-fashioned and "counter-cultural": if this is the way things are headed, shouldn't we simply embrace this phenomenon of divided attention and 24/7 connection to one's social network?