Hey Kids, Look Up from Your Phones and Talk to Me!

cell phones and studentsI have a love-hate relationship with technology. I totally get that technology plays a HUGE role in our everyday lives and mostly for the good. I get it. I sincerely do. But ya know, sometimes I actually like using a real pen with real ink to write on real paper.

Born in ’79, I’m on the tail end of Gen X and the beginning stages of the Millennials. I kinda embrace technology but secretly despise it as well. I refuse to be pigeon-holed, just like my generation. And I tend to pass this mentality on to my students, where technology does not play a key role in our tutoring time.

Everyone’s Got their Nose in a Phone

The picture above is a common scene. The great art of life is around us, yet everyone’s got their nose in a phone. For all I know, these kids are looking up the history of the painting behind them or they’re just texting each other about what to do after the field trip is over.

Missing what’s right in front of us is not just the problem of today’s youth. It happens to adults too. For example, standing in line at Starbucks you’ll find that people would rather check their Instagram page instead of striking up a conversation with the stranger next to them, who, by the way, could actually be following their posts and they wouldn’t even know it. Oh, the irony.

In School, Less is More

In general, I’m from the school of less is more: less technology means more independent thinking. You’ve got a question? Great! I want to discuss it with you directly, strike up a conversation that could provoke a train-of-thought, which may lead to a new idea and connect us by thinking about an old topic in a new way.

For that reason, I do not allow cell phones during tutoring time. I think they hurt more than they help during a session. Even on silent, the distraction alone is squandered time and energy. And just like this teen, I’ve also got beef with the efficiency of Ed Tech in the classroom. Finally, let us not forget LAUSD’s Billion Dollar Bureaucratic iPad Debacle. Nine wasted zeros and one superintendent resignation later, the nation’s second largest public school district is still climbing out of this financially burdened technology sinkhole.

Having More Followers does not Mean Having More Friends

Perhaps my frustration as an educator (and even just a human-being living in modern tech-focused society today) stems from the fear that technology will inhibit the organic nature of everyday life.

Technology can aid, but it cannot take the place of real, live, face-to-face connection. I fear our students are missing out on cultivating real connections when we, as the adults in their lives, make technology a priority and rely on its computer savvy in place of our own discernment.

Having more followers does not mean having more friends. Cell phones, tablets, laptops, and whatever the latest and greatest version of these will be in three months does more harm in the classroom than we want to acknowledge. It slowly strips away the authenticity of debate.

Yes, technology is a part of our daily lives (until the digital dark age, of course) but it should not be our whole life, in or out of the classroom.

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Wraparound Service for The Struggling Student, which includes Academic, Behavior, Special Education Advocacy, and School Placement services. Christine truly loves helping students realize their inner potential and the possibilities that await them: “To be a part of a student’s ‘ah ha’ moment is the best feeling in the world because I know I’m helping that student build foundational confidence that will lead to a successful path, not just in school but throughout life!”

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