Every day I enter the classroom to witness students playing Trivia Crack or texting a friend or family member. Even when I say “put you phone away,” I see the occasional student glancing secretively toward his or her lap, trying to hide the fact that a cell phone is there and a text is being sent or received. According to the Pew Research Group1, as of January 2014: 90% of adults in the United States have a cell phone. There is little doubt that technology, especially cell phones, has changed our lives.
I work on the computer every day, whether marketing my books, writing, or teaching online college classes, and I use my cell phone to send messages and stay up to date with email. Like my students, I also can’t resist the pull of popular Candy Crush and Trivia Crack. When my daughter is at college, I have my cell phone at my bedside in case of an emergency. After reading “The Pedestrian” and “The Veldt” by Ray Bradbury with my high school Science Fiction class, I began to think about the consequences of technology in our lives. I love science fiction and hoped Remote, a 71,000 word, futuristic novel, would open discussions on the topic.
Doubtless, cell phones have many benefits in and out of the classroom. Knowing that my daughter can reach me at any time makes me feel secure. I can get GPS and directions when driving using MapQuest and Google. My students look up information, record homework, read books, and even type essays on their phones.
News also comes quickly these days as well, but not always accurately.
I live in a town that borders Sandy Hook, Connecticut and remember the day of the school shooting in December of 2012. In class with students, phones suddenly began to buzz as they started to receive news about the tragedy. At first it was reported that there were two shooters. The number of student and teachers involved changed minute to minute. Many of the students with friends in the nearby community were distraught and panicked. Getting the news quickly is often advantageous, but when it is not accurate, like in the case of Sandy Hook, it can create a panic. It is important to consider how the same cell phone that might create an adverse situation, can also rectify it. Cell phones made it easy for students to connect with parents, helping the school in a time of possible crisis.
Is there a clear answer whether technology in the classroom is helpful or harmful? The same Pew Research Fact Sheet1 stated that “67% of cell owners find themselves checking their phone for messages, alerts, or calls — even when they don’t notice their phone ringing or vibrating.” Schools have an electronic use policy, which can range from no phones in any class to appropriate usage being decided by the teacher. Most of the times, teaching cell phone etiquette and responsible use is enough to hold class without disruption, there are other consequences to technology to consider.
Using a phone or computer as a buffer can isolate individuals. How many chances of holding face-to-face conversations are replaced with text messages, Snapchats, Vines, and Instagram. Individuals can miss the opportunity to engage in society, meet new people, and partake in life experiences. In the end, society will have to find the balance, but in a world that often prefers instantaneous gratification and excess, is that possible?