The Misuse of Screens

As today’s students gain more and more access to technology in the classroom, the issue of misuse of “screens” increases as well.

To illustrate, a story. Not from my classroom but my summer job. I drive for Uber. Recently, Uber introduced Uber Eats in my area. If you’re not familiar, Uber Eats is a ride for your dinner. Or lunch.

My first Uber Eats experience took me to McDonald’s. I would be delivering lunch to a bank teller working about a mile and a half away from the restaurant. After I accepted the delivery on my phone, the app flashed directions to McDonald’s on to my screen, and then instructions on how to obtain the order once I got there.

I pulled into a parking spot, removed my phone from the cradle suction-cupped to the windshield and headed in. I guess I hadn’t been inside a McDonalds for a while, because I was surprised at what I found. Patrons weren’t queued up at the registers. Instead, they entered their orders at a series of poster-sized tablets on stilts. Why have the employees enter the order on their register screen second-hand when the diner can do it for themselves on an interactive menu?

(Sidenote: traditional face-to-face ordering is still available)

The cashier asked me for the order number, which I read off my phone, and she typed into her screen. A moment later, I was walking back to my car, the bank teller’s lunch in my hands.

Before I could drive to the bank, I had to press a few buttons to confirm that the order pick up went well. Then the first of the directions to the bank showed up. Two rights, a left, and another right later, I was in the bank parking lot. I delivered the food in the lobby, confirmed by hitting the check mark on my phone screen, and hit the road in hopes of scoring another customer.

To complete the story, remember that the bank teller used his phone to access the Uber app, tapped his screen a bunch of times to both order his lunch and give me a five-star rating.

The misuse of technology and screens I referred to at the beginning of this post falls at the hands of the teachers, not the students. We can’t ignore that fact that screens and technology and a world of information are in our students’ hands at all times. It’s fine to allow students to use smartphones as electronic dictionaries, but it’s not enough to replace something made of paper with a device.

“But they’ll just look up the answer in, like, two seconds on their phone,” you might say. Then why are we making them memorize it?

“Screens are everywhere, all the time. But my room is going to be a break from that.” Um, ok, but, what are we preparing them for?

In times of change learners inherit the earth; while the learned find themselves beautifully equiped to deal with a world that no longer exists — Eric Hoffer

This year I vow to learn alongside my students. From my students. I’m not only going to corporate technology in lessons. I’m going to encourage students to lead the way through their screens. To do anything different is to prepare students for a world that no longer exists.

Throw away those numbered phone-collection pouches and join me. Harnessing the power of technology is crucial to teaching like a teacher in 2018. 

It’s your turn…

What do you think? Do you agree with Mr Middlesworth or not? Let us know below in the comment section.

I’m just a regular old teacher. No cape, no eye patch. I have no synonyms for innovation but I do want to do my job as best as I can.

2 thoughts on “The Misuse of Screens

  1. I totally agree with you and have tried for years to teach my students that they just need to know how to use their resources rather than worrying quite so much about memorizing things. I no longer put so much emphasis on closed-book tests and give them plenty of practice inside and outside of the classroom that allows them to work together, ask questions, and seek answers from their book or the internet.

    The only thing I still struggle with is the fact that not all students are eager to use their resources for their current task. Many of my kids will still sit in the room and try to play video games while they should be using their technology resource for good. For this reason, I have decreased the technology used in my fundamental level classes this year and plan to start focusing on how to implement the technology in an appropriate way that fits most students’ needs (hopefully all students, but that’s a high goal to hit!). In any case, I figured my academic kids are more naturally motivated in their academics, so they would be a good test subject for this year’s computer use. While I won’t take computers away from my other classes entirely, I realize that implementation and having something that is interesting for students to stay focused on is important if they are going to learn more than just how to play Fortnite online…

    1. There’s no question that students will gravitate toward what they like to do on their phones… Fortnite, Snapchat, etc… Personally, I think we have to allow for and understand that that will happen, and even try to normalize it a little. But it’s difficult to surf those waters when you are trying to dump knowledge on kids for the standardized tests. But the fact that you are having this internal dialogue and that you are thinking about this at all is a credit to you and I’ll sure your students appreciate it in your classroom.

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