“As the New Year starts and I return to teaching after a long break, I wonder whethertechnological gadgets are a friend or foe in a classroom setting. When I last taught, I did not have to be concerned about mobile phones in the classroom, let alone tablets or ipods. This is because just a few years back, mobile phones were very basic and could only send and receive calls and text messages. Do you remember those days?
My students at a boarding school in England thus never once looked at their phones during class. And when I taught a summer program in Paris, my hard-working students – who had come to Europe mostly from the USA – were rendered to using cheap calling cards in combination with the school’s land line to communicate with their families. But technology has rapidly evolved and now everyone seems to have personal smart technology on them. For me it is a concern and I need to find the right approach or else I fear ending up like Mrs Krabapple in the Simpson’s episode “Bart gets a Z”. It’s a funny episode which – in the first 10 minutes or so – shows a disaster situation in a classroom where every single child is busy with a smart mobile device. Poor Mrs Krabapple confiscates them all in her desperation, but then looses her job for the duration of the episode.
Personally, I find that smartphones have the power to be extremely distracting and I am much more productive when I put it away or even turn it off. Recently I overheard two high-school girls speaking on the bus: “Don’t worry,” one of them addressed her friend, “I will make you switch off your phone and lock it away while we study for the exam. You won’t believe how well you will learn!”