Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Smart phones and the future of university education

Smart phones turned university education into show business.

I thought about this several times over the Christmas break. How on several occasions, some individual laments about the state of society and states "Why don't they put those phones down? They're missing everything that's happening!"

If you expect someone to set their smart phone aside, you are taking the responsibility to provide something better. Do you promote engaging discussion? Have a provocative point of view on a recent news event? Present a construct or concept in a new light? Include the smart phone user in your discussion and encourage them to share their perspective?

Many are quick to demand this inter-connectivity cut, but don't have the game to deliver a competitive substitute.

That is my challenge as a university educator. Some profs may boldly defend their no computer/no smart phone edict for the classroom. But if so, is your presentation better than what you are asking your students to set aside?

Teaching in a non-smart phone environment is only for the best, our finest. To bring a narrative that's unique and engaging, asking powerful questions, framing the key topics, timing the prompts. Break out into small groups? Maybe, but many times that's a cop out. It indicates you lost your game.

I enjoy conversations with the advertising profs in our department at Appalachian State. After a tough day, I sometimes report that I had a bad set, that the jokes weren't good, that I lost my audience. I am sometimes discouraged and wonder how much harder I will need to work to hold my students' attention in this smart phone age.

I believe George Carlin could. So would Jerry Seinfeld. Those who take what might be mundane, and make it extraordinary. Educators need to learn how to build sets that play well at each show (in each class). How to keep the jokes coming, with the audience hanging on our riff for 45 minutes.

It's just my opinion. Next time someone tells you we need to set our smart phones down, give it some consideration.

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