I’ve decided to stop worrying about how other people use technology.
I will no longer judge the personal technology decisions of my fellow humans. (This includes students).
This decision to abandon my techno anguish came about not in a classroom, at a work meeting, or during professional conference - but rather while attending a college hockey game.
What happened was this. The first period ended. Everyone in the arena (including me) immediately took out their mobile phones. For the next 15 minutes hardly anyone talked to anyone else. We were all absorbed by our phones.
It would be easy to worry about a stadium full of hockey fans who were alone together.
The reason for my decision to reject the judgement about all those smart phone wielding hockey fans was that I was one of them.
What was I doing on my phone? I was reading a book.
The book that I was reading was This Brave New World: India, China, and the United States by Anja Manuel. A wonderful book.
And while I was reading my book on my phone (through the excellent Kindle iOS app), and looking at all the other people on their phones, I thought that maybe they just might also be reading books. Or reading news. Or connecting with friends or family. Or practicing a language. Or maybe even playing a game.
But whatever they were doing on their phone, maybe that activity was a worthwhile and energizing as my own experience of reading a very good book.
What would happen if decided to only worry about our actions? As long as other people’s actions don’t actively harm us - and as far as I know looking at a phone doesn’t hurt the person next to you - maybe we should just let each other be.
Maybe our obsession with our phones is a bad thing. If that is the case, then I think most folks will eventually figure things out.
How many things have we burned energy worrying about that actually turned out to be no big deal? Comic books. Pinball machines. Music lyrics. Video games. Worry about our mobile phone obsession may just be another in a long line of techno-panics.
At this point I want to be very clear about something. I firmly believe that the professor has the right, and the responsibility, to determine what happens in the classroom. A professor has the right to say “laptops down and cell phones off". I’ve never been able to effectively bring a classroom of students through a learning journey without the ability to hold the room.
If we fail to back our faculty in their desires to create an environment that they believe is most conducive to teaching - one that may include an absence of personal technology - then we will also fail our learners.
Outside of the classroom, however, I’ve given up on thinking that I know best how other people should use technology.
Now if you will excuse me, I’d like to spend some quality time with my phone.
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