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The Student and the iPhone


Nearly every student has one of these things, and it's impossible to imagine a time without them. (Trust me—there really was a day when you couldn't instantly send Tweets to your friends, look at pictures of kittens, play games, or browse for porn 24/7.)

Smart phones cause student trouble in three ways:

The phone is not a computer

Well OK—literally it is. The modern smart phone can do things that the full desktop computer of fifteen years ago only dreamed of, but that's not what I mean.

It's a poor tool for typing a paper. The screen is smaller than your hand, so you cannot see a whole page of typing, and writing a paper with that tiny on-screen keyboard will make you crazy when you do a five-page paper. It's OK for Tweets, but those are only 280 characters.

They cannot do Blackboard. Most of our course is on the Blackboard LMS, and yes, there is a way to see Blackboard on a phone, but learning how to do it and fighting the machine is a major challenge. Best advice: Don't try to use the phone. Get something with a bigger screen.

Blackboard is supposed to be easy and slick. If you can't make Blackboard work on your phone, it's because you are using the wrong tool.

The phone keeps you from learning things

Again—perhaps literally not true. If you need to Google a fact and you are in the middle of a forest, you can learn something, but one of the main functions of smart phones is that they cause students to fail courses.

Every teacher has a couple of students who cannot stop texting. The students think we don't notice (but who else would get that fascinated with something happening down near their navel?) and they are totally dropped out of the course.

These are the students who get a "D" if they are lucky. Many are not so lucky.

The phone takes you away from real life

We all know about people who are so busy texting while they are driving that they kill people. And every year some texting student steps into traffic on Claremont Avenue and gets nailed by a car.

But what about the rest of the texters?

I spent much of my free time this summer on bike trails, enjoying trees, flowers, sunshine, forests, streams, and small animals.

Every so often I pass someone who is walking the same trail, face buried in a smartphone, enjoying … Tweets.

It's a very sad life.

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