Texting vs. Teaching: Who Wins?
Our high schools are full of secretly texting, blithely unengaged adolescents, my colleague Dan de Vise reveals today in a story on a Montgomery County proposal to let students text during lunch. Dan’s story describes the situation well. Educators can’t keep up with the latest technocrazes. They banned cellphones for awhile, then decided they were necessary for emergencies. They figured no one would use them in class, forgetting that the text function allows a flurry of conversations without the miscreants making a discernible sound.
No one in the story asks my question: What do good teachers do about this? The best classes, in my experience, are the ones in which the teacher is holding a conversation with the entire class. Nobody is allowed to sit in a corner and dream about the prom, or text their dress choices to friends. The teacher has her eyes on the entire class, and is calling on everybody. If you are not paying attention, you are going to get caught. If the instructor is particularly good, the frequent texter decides what the class is doing is more interesting than sending another message. [Emphasis mine - MQ]
But since such classes are relatively rare, and teaching often involves the instructor talking and students listening, it is relatively easy for texters to avoid detection, and relatively common for them to be so bored they prefer to tune out and send messages. The standard adminstrative response is to try a new rule--like texting only during lunch--that might or might not alleviate the problem, when the answer to almost every educational mishap or distraction is not more rules, but more good teaching.