Learning and Technology

I read an article about a man who became intensely involved in a video game over a six-month period. You can read about it here. I was astounded at how someone could become so involved in a virtual (non-real?) world, so much that it consumed him day and night, and figuring out how to keep it going while he was at work. It started me thinking about students, technology, and the virtual world.

Students become obsessed with games, technology, social networking, etc. to the point that it distracts them from school. It is difficult to get students off their I-phones, I-pods, I-pads, etc. even after the class has started and instruction has begun. I have wondered how they could come into a classroom and not notice that someone was speaking to them, there was a problem or note on the board, and that things need to be repeated 5-6 times, just to get a response. After reading this article, I think I am beginning to understand.

The things that distracted me as a teenager were books, music, books, notes from friends, and books. We didn’t have pocket electronics, microwave ovens, or home computers. Instant gratification was getting to go to a movie and having your parent drop you off in front of the theater and picking you up in the same place two hours later.  If we were out and about, we had to find a pay phone to check in at certain times, and plan walking to one in the effort to be on time with the call. The worst thing that could happen to me was to have my book taken from me. My parents often did this and told me to go outside and find something  to do. Often I would sit on the curb in front of our house for a while until I felt I had been outside long enough to satisfy them.

We are competing with much bigger distractions now, and the question seems to be how do we make school attractive enough for students to want to put down the distraction and focus on learning?  When I was a teenager, it wasn’t a question, school time was my job, chores at home came first, homework, etc. then, when I had finished my responsibilities, time became mine to do with as I pleased, until my parents felt I was isolating too much, then they took (some) charge.

Could part of the problem be that our youth are not being educated on what it means to be responsible vs. having privileges? Technology is a wonderful thing. I’ve been known to be on my computer for hours, calculating things on graphing calculators, struggling with geogebra or geometer’s sketchpad, or reading. (I prefer a book in hand still, but have resigned myself to reading on the computer also.) The difference for me, I guess, is that I know when I have to work, when I have to plan, and when I am free to enjoy myself.

How do we teach our students these valuable lessons?

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