I am not sure why, after so many years in classrooms in all sorts of circumstances and communities, that I can find myself surprised. But darned if it did not happen again last week. I am teaching a group of 6th graders for nine days throughout January. Sixth graders are among the grouping now referred to as “digital natives.” They are plugged into the grid in ways that neither Marshall McCluhan or Timothy Leary could have ever envisioned back in the day.
My first morning gave me a view of this digital proclivity that has been thus far unsurpassed. One young lady held what appeared to me to be a phone in a nice case, black and sleek. I have concerns about how many students are distracted in class by their phones and I-Pods, how many walk the halls and sit at their desks with earbud wires dangling from their lobes. This student walked up to proudly display all the notes she had taken on her phone while I had delivered my first lesson. I replied that I thought it was great that she was so interested and found so much she wanted to remember but my internal dialogue was more along these lines: “You need a phone to take notes? What happened to pencils and paper? What if the phone rings? Are you going to answer it?”
Then I noticed how many other students had their own black phones handy. They were all carrying their phones everywhere. During a break, I mentioned to the teacher hosting my visit that the young lady had shown me notes on a cell and she said (with a note of sarcasm), “Oh no…those are MLDs…mobile learning devices…”
What?! She went on to explain that each of the 6th and 7th graders had received what in essence was a cell phone without calling privileges but they all had internet access and could use the notepad functions as well. This was to be handy in all classes for note taking, web based inquiry, and even more, teachers are expected to develop lesson plans, activities, and games to support their curriculum.
Now how did this all come about? It seems that a cell phone provider in the community awarded a grant to the school to purchase these MDLs and netbooks for all the 8th graders in the interest of technological advances in the classroom. Yeah…right…
Each student is carrying this equipment emblazoned with the name of the company on it, thus marking their consciousness with the brand. Students are leaving these devices behind in classes, they are losing them, they forget to charge them properly or in time for class. As a learning tool, perhaps they are. But I have some reservations about this marketing…a cell company giving grants to purchase equipment that looks suspiciously similar to outmoded phones and small laptops in the advent of smart phones and I-Pads, and every time the students look at their gadgets, they are being predisposed to purchase product from their benefactors. Hmmmmm…what else is there to say?
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