September 6, 2009

Face Time

What I am about to say hear is not anything new. It is not anything even remotely new. It is just me working through my own thoughts. A process of reflection if you will. I have been thinking about this post for a while now. I guess it's finally time.

Betcha thought this was going to be something controversial, something interesting. You were wrong. Anyway, I am a teacher that uses technology as much as possible. I get excited about new ideas. I try to bring technology into the classroom in order to make education relevant for our students. I feel that our schools are drastically out of date. They are physically and technologically out of date. Students are connected in ways that we are not. Technology is part of their lives. Or is it?

How many times have I just assumed that students are doing something (e.g. texting, facebooking, etc..)? A lot. How many times have I been wrong? A lot. Oh, don't get me wrong, they are doing these things....but maybe not to the extent that I think they are.

Last year we had a baseball game at school. Students from varying grades participated. I hit a couple home runs but that is beside the point. During that time I did not see one student with a cell phone. We were having fun. We were connecting in a personal way. I thought to myself: "self, maybe you focus on technology too much. Maybe you need to focus more on personal connectedness as well". I could have had students answer an academic question before receiving their pitch. I could have done all sorts of stuff. It was something cool and fun, and it was without the use of technology. Sometimes I forget this side of education.

This summer I was with my wife at the West Edmonton Mall. I saw a lot of young people texting while walking. They weren't even paying attention to the friends they were with. Suprisingly, I also saw a lot of dads texting while dining with their families. Two different generations, both missing out on the world around them because of their cell phones. I stereotyped, both groups were connected - one to a huge network of friends, the other to a network of work and respnosibility. In either case they were missing out on the personal relationships right in front of their face. Sometimes I forget this side of education.

This is a common argument against technology. Students spend too much time on devices and not enough "face to face" time. This was a concern at the beginning of this year when my new school rethought our cell phone policy. It was, previously, no cell phones in the school. It is now, no cell phones during class time. I argued for this. This is how our young people function and connect. I do not fully understand it. I fear that "face" time is being lost. I do not text a lot. I do not need to know what my friends are doing throughout the day. However, this is a reality for my students. Why keep them from it? Shouldn't we try to find an educational avenue here? After all, it is what our students are familiar with. Our students are functioning in ways that we do not fully understand. We are not being relevant to their realities. We need to rethink our system and ourselves. We need to ask ourselves questions and reflect. Maybe technological devices are replacing face time. Maybe there is more to this than just negative connotations. I never forget this side of education.

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