By the time kids are in college these days, there is already an over-dependence and attachment to their smart phones, tablets, and other electronic gadgets (let’s face it though--grown-ups are sometimes no better when it comes to this problem). When I get together with colleagues from different schools we never seem to run out of stories on the different ways students try to hide them in class. We even have a name for it: “pocket texting” or “sweatshirt texting.”
Here are a few memorable ones I have heard:
“Where do they hide it? Everywhere where they think it can’t be found, but they can easily get access when they see an opportunity. So they’ll hide it inside classroom cabinets, behind mirrors in the comfort rooms where they have built ‘nests,’ behind blackboards because you, as the teacher, wouldn’t expect that they will hide it near you.”
“They hide it by placing it on the window sill and then covering it up with the curtain. I once had a student who hid it inside her shorts, and then it fell off when she recited in class!” “I had a student who would look at his bag where he kept his laptop every few minutes or so. One day, I came near him during lecture and was shocked to find found out he was on Skype! He was watching over his sleeping girlfriend who was in a different time zone. And he does this in all of his classes!”
It is ingenuity at work, as one college professor quipped. “Sometimes I don’t know if I will be insulted or I will be touched at the effort they make.” When it is used properly, electronic gadgets can certainly aid instruction in a big way and can even keep students engaged. But when left unchecked and unsupervised, students can become distracted. Accessing social media sites when inside the classroom is already common. But what concerns us the most is students who are so reliant on technology may be forgetting the basics when it comes to learning. Kids nowadays use their mobile phones or tablets to take photos of notes or slides during class lectures. I am not sold on it as a truly effective means to retain and understand their lessons. And a research validates my point--they report that students who write their notes with a pen and paper actually learn more. The research had shown that taking notes by hand requires a student to use different cognitive processing skills in order for them to record the information they are hearing during lectures. As they listen attentively to the discussion and write down their notes, they are creating mental connections and using higher level of cognitive skills. They are not just retaining information in a rote way, but they’re synthesizing and comprehending ideas.
Gadgets also pose concerns from a discipline standpoint. We all know that it has been used for cheating during examinations. Access to social media with one swipe has given way to cyber bullying and an impulsive and careless way on how kids use their words and make their decisions.
With all of these challenges, what can parents and educators do? Here are three suggestions that can help our children get the best from this technology: Set boundaries. Most parents want their children to carry smart phones for emergency purposes and to know the whereabouts of their child. If this is the case, then a simple phone with a call and text function will do. Periodically monitor and set up parental controls to make sure that these gadgets are being used properly. That said… Talk to your kids about our (parent and teacher) expectations. Don’t let the conversation stop from what model to buy. Before you even buy it, spell out to him when, where and for what purpose should their gadget be used. Describe the care and responsibility you expect him to undertake. Let them have a say in certain areas like the games to upload, but set a limit. Discuss how anyone with access to the social media must practice good digital citizenship--and what it entails--at home and in school Don’t let the internet become an “instant substitute.” We need to teach our kids on how how to “mine” information on the web without resorting to cutting and pasting ideas that are seemingly related. Show them how links work, and how it is important that they exhaust all information related to their topic so they can best come up with a mental map of these related ideas in their mind.
As teachers, we like to think that technology in class is an active partner in learning and never as a substitute to what we are supposed to be doing in class. Still, nothing beats the good old fashion way of helping our kids with their school work. Careful attention, guided exercises, and being “in the moment” are still our best bet in raising kids who not only have the right skills but the right attitude for learning.
Mae Raguindin Rafanan's first love is counseling but considers teaching and mentoring young minds her true love. For the last 15 years, she has been living out her passion at her alma mater, St Scholastica's College Manila, where she is currently the associate dean of Student Affairs and a professor at the Psychology and Counseling Department.