High School: Addendum to My Post on Technology, Kids, and Communication

With only one week left before summer break, the “kids” are getting restless. They certainly don’t like sitting for too long, even though final exams are right around the corner and time needs to be spent on review.

Most would rather be left to do what they want (even though it would likely have nothing to do with school) or, in my class, get into the physical education activity for the day.

Now you will have to bear with me for a moment in order to see the connection between my previous piece, Is Technology to Blame for Students’ Diminished Capacity to LISTEN, COMMUNICATE, and ABSORB!!!, and this post, but I assure you, there is a connection.

Anyway, as I stood before my class preparing to give students a quick review of the schedule for finals week, where to concentrate their studying, encourage any make up for those who have missed class (or will miss), and explain the objective for the day, a student said to me, “Mr. Mango, can’t we just go play and you not talk so much.”

I wasn’t really taken aback by this since it is something I have heard from students before, especially and increasingly more often in the last decade or so.

My response:  “I don’t talk that long [contemplating her inference]…and there are important things I need to tell you about today and next week. Geez, how long do you think I talk?” I asked.

She remarked with something like “too long.” So clever, kids these days.

I said to the student that I don’t believe I talk much longer than a minute or so. She looked at me a little miffed and responded with a statement indicating that she felt I talk for “way longer than that,” more than five minutes she said. (What, 5 minutes is long?)

I thought for a moment; then asked her if she would like to time me to see who was more accurate with our estimations, me or her.

The student insisted that I would shorten my talk time on purpose since I knew I was going to be timed. I assured her that that would not be the case as I was just as interested as her to see who was right. I have a planned way I introduce my lessons and what I review so it would be easy to follow my normal routine.

Reaching into my pocket I produced my trusty stopwatch and promptly gave it to the student asking her to start the watch when I began, and to stop it on the words “ok, go play.”

Once I got the class quieted down I began, and the student hit the start button.

Tick, tock, tick, tock, tick, tock, “any questions” I asked, pause…wait…wait…, “ok, go play,” and down went her thumb on the stop button of the watch.

As everyone else rose to get their equipment and start their matches/games I asked the student to read the time...hesitantly she said, “55 seconds,” shaking her head as if that was impossible.

How exaggerated is that, from the student’s perspective anyway, that 55 seconds seems like 5 plus minutes of waiting to her, and likely others. No activity or video game, no TV or computer, no cell phone or iPad, and sitting down being asked to focus on important conversation that will help students improve their grade, do better on their final exam, and prepare them for the activity for the day, and that is way too much. Seemed like an eternity to them.

A good number of students tend to shut the teacher, even coach, off before they’ve finished their first sentence. A word comes out, the students shut down. It’s just not entertaining or engaging enough for them to have to listen and evaluate what is being said, ask a question (if need be) to clarify, and then move on to something else. And, as I inferred in my previous article on the topic, I believe this is becoming more common.

It seems that the art of listening, of communicating, of absorbing pertinent, applicable information, is being lost. At least, from my perspective, it seems that way.

Thirty-three years in teaching and I still haven’t found the best way to reach all the students all the time, to get them to care enough so that they truly want to listen, ask questions, and learn about how to improve the quality and quantity of their lives. And it is getting tougher, not easier.

Coaching, well that seems to be a slightly better environment for listening and communicating information. At least most athletes are there because they chose to be an athlete and want to improve. However, I fear that their attention span and communication skills are also waning as technology, or better stated the permissible overuse of technology, are likely having an impact on them as well. Things out of balance always do.

As I implied in my first piece, we do wonder why kids today seem to have so much trouble following directions, absorbing instruction. Maybe teachers and/or coaches just can’t compete with the entertainment value of their iPad’s.

Coach:  Mary, you play left forward today, Suzy go to left fullback, Ann go to center midfielder, Jenny play goalie, Cindy you’re sweeper…, ok, everyone got that?

Girls:      Yep, got it coach!!!

Coach:  Great, let’s go out there and have a great game!!!

And the girls all run out to take their field positions as the coach looks on in astonishment as Suzy, Ann, and Cindy all position themselves at forward.

Coach thinks to himself, “next time I will just text them their positions.”

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  • Ok, just got through explaining our final exam procedures to 80 or so students. This explanation included:

    - DO NOT WRITE ON THE TEST, ONLY THE SCANTRON.

    - IF YOU STAND UP WE ASSUME YOU ARE DONE. IF YOU HAVE A QUESTION OR YOUR PENCIL NEEDS SHARPENING RAISE YOUR HAND AND WE WILL COME TO YOU.

    along with a couple other points like, make sure you have your calculators out, and no talking during the test.

    First question, "Can we write on the test?," seriously, someone asked that. And within 5 minutes a student near the front stood up and walked to the front of the room to sharpen his pencil.

    Both where covered thoroughly in a 1 minute explanation before the test, and all the students where quiet.

    Crazy....right?

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