Thursday, December 28, 2017

Phones and the fate of our society

I don't have a smartphone but I might be addicted to email.  About 1987, I started doing more online teaching.  Students could see me live or on tape and send homework and questions by email.  That meant I could get student work at any time, 24 hours a day.  My students were undergrads and grads so they were older than K-12 students. 

In 1987, I hadn't had much experience with the internet and the iPhone combination of a computer and voice and printed capabilities were still in the future.  I expected that student work would reach me electronically from a student at a computer who was seriously interested in getting a good grade from me and also learning the material I was teaching.  Around that time, Lycos was my favorite search engine and Google hadn't started.  

I have heard from high school and college instructors that there seems to be too much attention paid by students to their phones and the most recent snappy comment, picture or flirtation. (I have observed quite a bit of attention to phone screens on the part of grayhaired oldsters, too, but that seems to be worry nobody.) I have heard of some app or other that wise guys and girls use, at times, to ridicule the teacher right during class.  I have heard that the local high school faculty will confiscate the phone of any student who uses or even shows his or hers in class.  First offense, the phone can be retrieved from the main office at the end of the day.  More time lapse is required for later offenses, I think.

The name Sherry Turkle, professor at MIT, is one I have seen as an author and thinker about the effect of social media and social networks on people, especially young people today.  A Google search gave these results for books on the topic:

I pay attention to my computer, my iPad, and my dull flip phone all day.  I get a very different reaction when an ad or an impersonal item like a newsletter comes if from my reaction to someone I know personally.  I don't think I would qualify as a candidate for one of those Chinese internet camps aimed at breaking (teen) addiction to internet communication and searches.  But, I might be headed down a slippery slope toward more and more texting and selfies and moral degradation.  

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