Is it possible that engagement can look different for different learners?
Can engagement be mistaken for distraction?
I came across a Forbes article yesterday that raises concern over university students being distracted in class and suggested that "as students become more tech-savvy, they're just more distracted inside the classroom." The article discusses professors who are requiring (adult) learners to leave their phones in a box when they enter a classroom and even close their laptop (note-taking device) lids. Some schools have also tapped into software that will block access to e-mail and certain websites. In another recent article, Shelley Turkle also discusses her device-free classroom. Ironically, the Forbes article goes on to discuss an app for the very technology professors wish to restrict in their classroom. The app is called Pocket Points, and it rewards students for not using their phones. The rewards students receive are discounts to various businesses.
I just got back from an AMAZING morning at EdCampYQR. The learning was on fire and the positive feedback keeps rolling in! Once thing I can assure you is that the level of engagement was extremely high, yet there was… "gasp* technology in everyone's hands. Teachers were both engaged and on their devices. How do we know this? They were tweeting up a storm about what they were learning, favouriting sites that were discussed, connecting with teachers both locally and internationally, taking pictures of content, taking notes, etc. The event went so well today, that our committee is planning a second one for April 9th--mark your calendars!!!
I believe that it would be a disservice to students to keep today's classrooms completely device-free. There is a further danger in not being taught how to use technology meaningfully, as this PBS video illustrates. Our youth/young adults are not digital natives. The digital native idea, as David White asserts, "assumes that we don't have to teach youth how to use technology--but being socially adept at Facebook or owning the latest phone is not a foundation for using the web effectively for study" or developing media literacy and digital fluency. If our students are, in fact, distracted by their technology, then de don't block them from using it--instead we talk and teach them how to use their technology to enhance their learning (not distract it). Again, this ties back to digital citizenship, with a particular focus on Ribble's themes of educate and respect. I recommend reading Gloria Uluqsi's recent blog post on her interpretations of digital citizenship, as an educator from Nunavut who is new to the topic. I am certain that she will bring the concept of digital citizenship into her classroom and inspire her colleagues to integrate it in their teaching as well.