We do it late at night. We do it at the dinner table and while crossing busy streets. We do it at school behind closed doors. We do it so much our thumbs become sore.
It seems like everywhere you look you can see the brisk thumb symphony that is text messaging. Spurred by the unlimited texting plans offered by carriers like AT&T Mobility, Sprint Nextel and Verizon Wireless, American teenagers deliver more SMS (short message service) text messages than telephone calls. Teenagers on average send and receive 2,272 text messages per month, according to the Nielsen Company.
The trend is worrying parents, physicians, and psychologists, who believe texting is leading to anxiety, distraction in school, failing grades, stress and sleep loss. Educators argue texting threatens to eclipse the real reason students go to school: to learn.
California has imposed a ban on drivers talking on cell phones and text messaging. Will the mobile phone ban extend to classrooms next? Beginning this fall at every Templeton Unified School District campus, all electronic devices must be turned off and out of sight during the school day.
Rather than banning text messaging and cell phones at school, we need to embrace mobile phones to improve learning.
No one can stop the communication revolution. Although controversial, students have invented a new shortened language. Some balk at text terminologies and informal use of grammar, but it still is inventing. It sets a context for creative discussions and language that could provide a teaching opportunity if educators are willing to take advantage of it.
Teachers can learn from students. They can ask students to verify information via their cell phones – from dates, to events, to speeches – any reference at all. Professors can even send questions, reminders or homework assignments via text. Using phones keeps students on task and provides them with a learning opportunity.
Taking away cell phones doesn’t solve the root of the problem. Without a phone, students will go back to traditional distractions: passing notes, doodling and daydreaming. A person’s motivation determines their success.
Today’s students are part of a multi-tasking generation. What many adults consider distracting simply isn’t. Some students argue text messaging actually helps them stay awake in class. As long as they are constantly doing something, they won’t completely zone out.
Often, students rely on having their mobile phones in class because of the convenience and safety factors.
“I can’t count how many times I have had to text my roommates when I get out of class early for a ride home so I didn’t have to walk alone in the dark,” said liberal studies senior Caitlin Adams.
Prompted by the Virginia Tech shootings, the Cal Poly Emergency Notification System was set up in January 2008. The service allows the University Police Department to text message students, faculty and staff in the event of an emergency posing an imminent physical threat to the campus community. It can be accessed via the Cal Poly portal.
This is just one example of how mobile can be used to benefit students.
Although they’ve never needed to use the service, the University Police Department continues to test the system on the second Wednesday of every month, Chief of Police Bill Watton said.
In the end, long division via iPhone is much faster than via paper. But which device’s answer is better?