Technology fails to compute face-to-face communications


Feature photo by Morgan Berk.

Brayden Parker

Feature photo by Morgan Berk.
Feature photo by Morgan Berk.
Walk down the language arts hallway outside of English teacher Bree Engebritson’s door, and it’s difficult to disregard the white single 8 ½ x 11 piece of printer paper that hangs on the red brick walls. Like many similar signs posted throughout the building, the attempted warning features a juvenile sketch of a cell phone covered over with the bold red prohibition symbol, under which sits the phrase, “Learning Zone: No Cell Phones.”
The long disregarded effort to limit the use of technology in the classroom is much ignored as hundreds of students pass the salutation with eyes glued to the latest Twitter update on their phone and with another hand holding the newly issued iPad intended for “educational purposes.” If this is the manner in which technology affects the way that students walk from class to class, there is no doubt that technology’s influence remains even once class begins and the device is put away, or left out on the student’s desk or lap.
“If you’re going to use [a cell phone] responsibly, that’s great,” Engebritson said. “It gives you access to internet for research without having to go check out a laptop and you have all those programs that can help you like a dictionary and thesaurus. But I think that with any piece of technology, if people want to abuse it, then they’re going to and that’s not something you can generalize into a whole entire group.”
Experts and researchers discussed the effects of technology in the classroom immensely and the debate of the goods and evils that they bring have been debated by students, teachers and researchers alike. Yet the newest area of interest among the scholarly is the correlation between adolescents being immersed in technology and the non-verbal methods in which they communicate, especially in writing.
One 2011 report from the Nagoya University of Commerce and Business Administration in Japan, published that the millions upon millions of SMS, or text messages, sent annually are the most utilized method of writing for adolescents, moreso than handwritten assignments and formal essays that students complete throughout the school day.
It would seem that interchanging communication methods throughout the course of a typical school day would prove to bring along a plethora of uncapitalized I’s and intercessions of “LOL,” the ramifications of switching from the effortless texting and the labor necessary required writing for teachers. However, despite the assumptions, teachers still have not seemed to witness this fallacy yet.
“As far as formal essays go, I very rarely see the text lingo. I think students still get that it’s not the time for that type of language,” Engebritson said. “But I will see on assignments, like little writings that I will collect, I will see the abbreviations or the uncapitalized “i” and things like that. I think there are different things that you see that are more popular due to texting.”
While most 21st-century students would prefer to turn in formal essays and district writing assessments by means of texting if not for the effortlessness that comes with choreographing thumbs instead of pencils, students also understand the importance of differentiating between formal and informal ways of writing.
“Sometimes I use text abbreviations,” sophomore Quinn Miller said, “when I’m taking notes for shorter and faster words, but not when I’m just regularly writing.”
Engebritson agrees students understand the necessity of using their differing ways of written communication for the intended audience.
“There have been instances that I have seen it in formal writing,” Engebritson said, “but I feel that in most of the writing that I’ve seen on assessments, kids know you don’t really use that there.”
Although students can make the differentiation between methods of communication and switch on and off when they use each, the fact that texting lingo bleeds into school work is inevitable.
According to a 2008 report from the American Life Project, a poll of teenagers revealed that 50 percent of high school students do sometimes use informal language in their school work, with 38 percent of teens having used shortcuts such as “IDK” and “LOL,” as well as a quarter of teens having inserted written emoticons in their class work.
“Yes, I think [technology] causes people’s writing skills to decrease,” Miller said, “because people have gotten used to typing and rely on it instead of writing.”
As with all debates, the opposing sides will continue arguing this concern of technologies and its influence on non-verbal adolescent communication will only continue to heat up as people discover advanced technologies and make their way into the classroom. Teachers and students alike will continue to be part of this discussion as well as make the best decisions for themselves and their classrooms.
It can be expected that these discussions will continue long after the sign foreboding these technologies falls to the ground outside Engebritson’s classroom. However, for teachers like herself, Engebritson continues to appreciate the positive impacts technology has on education and accepts the imperfections of the system.
“Technology isn’t going to go away and it’s just going to get bigger,” Engebritson said. “I think you see that even in our school, especially with the iPads. So I think it’s great if it’s used the right way… Anytime something is new there are obviously little speed bumps along the way but it goes back to those kids that if they want to use it responsibly they are going to, and if they’re not, they’re not.”
By Brayden Parker