Students alone together?
This week in one of my classes we read part of Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other.
Turkle argues that social media have led to more connection but less conversation, more information transfer but less mutual understanding.
I was half-expecting many students to scoff at such hand-wringing, but they’ve actually responded with genuine interest and concern about how digital technologies have come to dominate their everyday lives.
I also asked my students to complete an informal Electronic Devices Survey. Out of 43 students surveyed:
- 2 do not have a computer at home
- 3 do not have a cell phone
- 7 believe laptops should be entirely banned from the classroom
- 9 check their emails or messages 5 or more times per hour
- 24 tend to check email, texts, or other social media while reading for their courses
- 36 sometimes feel that electronic devices distract them from other activities.
Several students have posted thoughtful reflections on their relations with cell phones on the public course blog. One student shared this brilliant and rather disturbing video:
Another student said that at the Starbucks where he works, it’s increasingly the older customers who annoy everyone by trying to place an order while texting.
The younger folks are realizing that “continuous partial attention” not only leads to superficial relationships, bad grades, and car accidents. It’s also just incredibly obnoxious.