One of the reasons teachers are so reluctant to have students use their devices in school is that they fear students will be too distracted to learn and that students are way too dependent on their phones.
I definitely see this behaviour demonstrated in school to some extent,
In my book, Social LEADia, I explore this idea:
Kids are distracted by their phones. Kids are far more interested in what Sally and Johnny are doing at lunch than the War of 1812. They would rather play a game than work on a school assignment. Guaranteed. I was easily more interested in boys than what any of my teachers were teaching when I was a teenager. Even today, I have to admit that I am more interested in what my PLN on Twitter is sharing than I am when listening to someone regurgitate information at a meeting or conference. I think we need to rethink our natural response to this and help students (and adults) develop self-regulatory skills and as Rheingold puts it, “deliberate media mindfulness”…
As a Teacher-Librarian, I don’t have my own class per se, so the line I use most often when I am walking around the Library is: “Is your device helping you or distracting you?” This invites dialogue. It presumes positive intentions. When it’s helping them, students will often show me what they are doing (and this is most awesome, because I have learned so much!!). When they acknowledge it’s distracting, they immediately put it in their bags. I don’t “make” them put it away, I invite them to. I also always share my own struggles with my students. I will often offer strategies for what I do and invite other students to talk about what they do.
I also work with teachers and students on self-regulation by asking students to set goals for themselves and having them reflect on how well they met their goals.
But I also want to acknowledge another reality and that is, that what students are doing with their phones goes beyond distraction. Kids are creating too; we just don’t necessarily see it or acknowledge it in school.
Check out the video below,shared by a friend of mine, about how Steve Lacy prefers to create music using Garageband on his phone.
A friend of mine, Janice Leighton and I were chatting one day about the fact that her daughter, from a very young age, would spend hours and hours a day editing videos to the point that she was worried about her. She tried to ensure that her daughter had a variety of other experiences, but Emma would always go back to shooting and editing video.
Emma recently graduated from film school and is working in the industry. Janice said something that really gave me pause. She said, “You know how Malcolm Gladwell in the Outlier talks about needing 10 000 hours to be great? Well, I really think that all that time I fretted about her, Emma was just working on her 10 000 hours.”
I love that perspective & it’s not something I had thought of before.
Do we realize that opportunities today look very different than they did even 10 years ago? Do we see that young people are creating those opportunities for themselves in ways they have not been able to do before? I am not saying that we shouldn’t be concerned with obsessive behaviour–moderation is definitely important. But perhaps we might need to think differently about what our kids are actually doing with their devices and not assume that they are “wasting time”.
Another thing I’ve noticed is that we are reluctant for students to use their phones to work on projects. A few times when co-teaching, students asked if they could work on their own devices and the teacher at first didn’t feel comfortable with it. I encouraged the teacher because honestly, I know that I feel more comfortable with my own device because I know how it works. We want our students to create without barriers. Sometimes an unfamiliar device can be a barrier.
I think that perhaps I need to change the question I ask my students. I will now start to ask,
Is your device helping you or distracting you or are you creating something amazing with it?