Those of us still working in the classroom are constantly encouraged to bring more technology into our lessons. The options available to us can be overwhelming, but provide wonderful options for enriching our students. However, we are working with a generation that is caught in the middle of the current technology wave. My generation, those born in the late 70s and early 80s, were raised without the benefit of technology. If we wanted to conduct research, we had to pull from heavy volumes of encyclopedias or make a trip the local library. To give a frame of reference, in my home, we signed up for the internet my senior year of high school in 1996. We have witnessed the explosion of technology and I am proud to say, many of my generation has adapted well to the technological innovation driven by Silicon Valley.
Our children are part of a much different generation. For many of those in early elementary school, they know nothing but technology. These children will never know the problem of a CD with a scratch that skips during their favorite song, all their music is digital. They will never understand the frustration of an informational text not being up to date or not having the the latest news out of foreign countries. This generation is being raised in schools constantly using technology. Children have access to desktop computers starting in pre-school. They have tablet computers in early elementary and progress to laptops as they get older. Many of them will have smartphones before they leave their elementary halls. They are being groomed by their teachers on how to use technology appropriately in the classroom. They are learning when it is acceptable to have their phones out and when they need to be put away.
This thought brings me to the generation currently walking the halls of high schools across our country. I call them the “bridge generation”. They are the generation caught between the lack of technology from my generation and the constant technology of the current elementary generation. They were never taught how to appropriately use their technology at school. Through elementary and middle school, phones were a new toy and, as children do, they want to constantly play with their new toy. This high school generation has to constantly be reminded to put their phones away; to not text, tweet, snap or whatever else they may come up with. It is a battle teachers are fighting daily and we are losing.
For some teachers, they do not fight the battle, they just have students put their phones in a holder and lock them away for the class period. Others are still trying to fight with mixed results. My questions is, why are we not fighting this battle? Is it not our job to help students learn appropriateness? We require them to raise their hands, follow a bell schedule, not interrupt classmates, focus on presentations and more, so why are we not reminding them about their phones? I realize there will always be students who cannot control themselves and will always try to be on their phone. However, if we continue to work with students and teach them how to use their phones appropriately, how they are a tool for learning and play, we will be doing them a better service for their adult lives.
This generation will not be in our halls long, the younger generation is approaching and is prepared to use technology properly. However, as we impress upon all young teachers, we cannot let students fall through the cracks. While teaching them proper technology usage may seem minor, think about the world they will enter upon graduation. Universities and the workplace are filled with technology use, but it must used at the right time. If students do not use their technology properly, they can face expulsion or firing. That is on us as teachers. We must help this “bridge generation” be as successful as they choose to be and not sit back and wait for the younger generation to arrive. I hope any of you reading this are willing to fight this battle because it is not an easy one, yet it is worth fighting.