Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Could You Please Put Your Phone Away

For several years until my daughter moved to the US, we had enjoyed a joint custody over our beloved Pomeranian Sophie. We started this happy arrangement the moment we brought her home when she was only one month old. As she grew older, it was clear that Sophie’s two mothers used totally different educational approaches. I was the strict disciplinarian, and my daughter was much softer. Sophie, a very intelligent dog, adjusted: in my home she ate only dog food and at my daughter’s she shared all her meals with her mother, all the while barking and making her wishes known.
Since I believe in “live and let live,” I said (almost) nothing, but the problem arose when my daughter and Sophie sat together for dinner at my place. Then Sophie would stand by my daughter, bark tenaciously, and demand food. Suddenly she became that anxious and dependent dog, and forgot all about the, much calmer and happier, arrangement at our home.
I was reminded of Sophie’s anxiety when I saw the difficulties that my students had in controlling their smartphone use during class. Schools all over the country forbid the use of phones, and it seems to be a necessary rule for high school students. However, until recently I had believed that it wasn't needed for college students. I assumed that grown-ups who have been making such an effort to finance their studies ( At my college a yearly tuition is over 30000 nis, while a working student would earn between 2000—4000 nis) would focus on getting the most out of their money. Sadly I was wrong, in class, instead of learning, my students were using Facebook, and Whatsup (in Hebrew of course) constantly keeping in touch with their friends.
To help them see the light, I tried first the educational approach, I reminded my students how hard they work for their degree (I often see them working at the different restaurants around town), they agreed, but kept on checking their messages.
Because of Sophie I understood how the smartphone, which was lying right in front of them, made my students anxious. I realized the difficulties they had in controlling the urge to check their phones, and how this dependence negatively affected their ability to learn. Moreover, it finally dawned on me that the smartphone with its dictionary, and the other useful learning devices could ultimately destroy my students’ concentration.
I have to admit that I am as addicted to my smartphone as my students, but of course I never take it out of my bag during class. I concluded that this would also be the best solution for my students.
It took some time and practice, especially since I started enforcing the no phones rule mid semester. At first I had to personally remind each student to put the phone away. I hope it is not only my imagination, but I see some improvement in my students' engagement in the lesson.

My daughter would probably disagree, but I am convinced that my approach to Sophie’s education was correct. It was beneficial to her mental well-being, and in my home Sophie was a calmer and happier dog. I know better than to even hint that humans are in any way similar to my little Pom. But I testify that I sense a new yet familiar calmness in my students. I hope that now we could finally go back to learning. 

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