What Are We Really Doing Here?

A number of recent experiences have left me scratching my head:

  • Yesterday, I watched a group of teenagers play Ultimate Frisbee. During the 10 minutes I watched, one particular youth checked his mobile phone every minute, sometimes replying to a text, sometimes only reading.
  • The other day, I went to see Iron Man. During the entire movie, the tween-aged youth sitting in front of me found the movie to be so non-compelling that she chose to text on her phone with more frequency than the Ultimate Frisbee specimen. I could tell because her phone would shower the theater with light - a lot of fun, let me tell you.
  • Now let's get personal. For the Fourth of July, we went to a small town, watched a parade. A sixteen-year-old relative of mine spent the parade text-ing away. His frequency wasn't as drastic as FrisbeeText and IronTween, but his actions were certainly in the running. Now, his nine-year-old sister has a mobile phone, too. Needless to say, my wife didn't get far in convincing her that nine-year-olds, properly supervised, should rarely have need to send a text message.
What, in teenage (waste)land, could possibly be so compelling that the conversation in the cloud could be more incessantly important than the conversations that might be had with the person sitting next to them? Am I anti cell phones? Absolutely not. I think we all should be using them to teach and to learn. But what I'm talking about is a balance that may be missing in the lives of the rising generation.

Combine this idea with our recent discussion about what's best for our students, ageism, respect, fame, public perception, collateral damage, digital immigration, apologies, and the Beatles and I'm forced to ask:

What are we really doing here?

I'll close with Ryan Bretag's sobering addition to Wednesday's exchange:
My point is what about all the things teachers have students doing online where it isn't a choice but the teacher's mandate that some, most, a little, whatever of their learning, risk-taking, mistakes, failures, and success are public by way of the Web 2.0 tools we hold so close...

Are we doing our students a disservice by wanting so much of their learning to be shared through the tools provided by today's Internet? Should this be a choice made by each student? Do they truly understand the gravity of such a decision? Will anything in their future be impacted, positively or negatively, because of this public display of their learning?
Extremely important issues that must be considered.

Image Source: Flickr user ::: Billie / PartsnPieces :::

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