Facebook, Text Messages, & Surfing the Web.

Passing Notes

The semester’s in full swing and things are largely going well. These students seem to be much more engaged than ones I’ve taught in years past. I like it. I’m having a good time. I’m hoping they are, too.

What’s troubling is that many of them have taken to bringing their laptops to class. And their cell phones. Sure, the photo up there is of a note being passed (and it’s not even lit all that well), but what it makes me question is whether the paradigm has shifted. Let me explain.

When I was a student, lo those many moons ago, we passed notes like those to get our ideas to one another, especially if those ideas weren’t related to class. Now, they send text messages. They send emails. They post on facebook. Heck, I’ve even seen a couple manage to post to their blogs (which are required for my class) while they’re in the midst of other classes. Technology has changed the rules. The short version of it (to my mind, at least) is that they can’t be paying attention to what’s going on in class with all of these distractions. It also strikes me as rude.

But the impasse that I’ve created in my mind comes directly from the very same tech that we laud. On the one hand, have they evolved to the point where they can do both things at once? Are they just us, 2.0? If this is so, then is my enforcement of “the old guard” — y’know, things like “Take off your hat inside.” or “Don’t talk when I’m talking.” or “Set your mobile phone to silent before you enter class.” — a waste of time and the product of backward thinking? I mean, have I become just a stump in the road of progress? On the other hand (and this is where some of my younger colleagues land), perhaps it’s my job to help get them ready for a larger world. One that, at least at present, doesn’t accept that a text message where the word “too” becomes the number “2” is acceptable. It’s my job to show them that there’s more going on than who’s having a party tonight and that examining their surroundings isn’t an exercise in futility.

In the end, the choice is mine, I suppose. Will I continue to allow them to run roughshod over the conventions to which I’ve adhered for such a long time, or will I, in the vernacular, put the “smack down” and make them toe my line? I’m leaning toward the latter. And I’m thinking that next week, the proverbial other shoe drops.

Hold on to your hats, kids.

N.B. The image above was shot not for this rant, but as part of a stock shoot I’d put together a couple of years ago. Alas, it was hard to make the image look like a class with only two young ladies. This idea is worth shooting again, but this image falls a little short of my expectations. *shrug*


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September 2008
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