2010-01-13 / Editorials

Jim Hite


While not one who has taken to the new technology, I nevertheless can appreciate those parts that I value and find myself capable of understanding and using. Much like programming a video recorder (remember them?) in the old days, when those of us who were technically challenged turned over that activity to one of the younger generation, I find myself lost in this world of iPod and thousands of hand-held apps.

Then there’s texting. It’s ubiquitous. Admitting it’s a great way to communicate, I still prefer to talk on a phone: yes, a cell phone!

I retired from teaching before texting and cell phones. Teachers and students reading this, if any, will smile knowingly when I say I don’t know how I would or could have handled their presence in my classroom.

A high school English teacher in Alexandria, Virginia, wrote that students going to graduation were searched and their electronic toys removed for the ceremony.

Discussing text messaging, he noted a Nielson Company survey that the last quarter of 2008, teens averaged some 80 texts a day. He said one student admitted to sending 10 texts in his class on one day. Others admit sending and receiving over 200 a day.

However, what some may call innocent adolescent behavior is in fact undermining the students’ ability to focus and to learn. Moreover, studies show, it creates anxiety as many feel they cannot live without it.

A book entitled Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age, calls our age an institutionalized culture of interruption, “. . . where our time and attention is being fragmented by a never-ending stream of phone calls, emails, instant messages, text messages, and tweets.”

Applied to the classroom, it’s the loss of focus to do school work.

Attention is at the heart of intellectual activity. Texting undermines opportunities to learn, leading students to shy away from challenging material. It‘s ironic that devices meant to facilitate communication are actually helping to destroy it.

The above-mentioned teacher noted that it is beyond all but a handful of his students to rethink what they wrote and hammer out second and third drafts. Math and science teachers see the same, kids wanting the quick answer instead of going through the intellectual effort that helps them understand what is behind the math and scientific principles involved.

Are you txting away ur education?

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