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C.M. Corner: Technology Culture

In the next couple of C.M. Corner posts, we are going to be looking at culture and how that impacts learning.  When we hear the term culture, regarding people, we often think to ethnicity or a geographic area, i.e. American Culture or urban/rural culture.  The dictionary defines culture as “the customs, arts, social institutions and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group.”  If we use that definition, we begin to understand that cities, individual schools and even smaller groups of students will each have their own cultural difference.  A person’s cultural values influence how they interact with the world around them and as changes occur, cultures change and grow. 

One of the biggest cultural influences in our lives today is technology and has become a polarizing issue between various age groups.  Both Baby Boomers and Generation X grew up without or with limited access computers and the computers available didn’t have much use beyond running basic programs and word processing (compared to today).  There was no email, no power point and no public access to the internet.  It was a time when you were told, “you need to learn math because you won’t have a calculator with you everywhere you go,” and it was true.  Fast forward to today.  Students today grew up in a world where technology abounds and is easily accessible.  There are screens everywhere and they can launch and play games, research information, be navigated to a destination and even control the lights at their house through a phone that they carry with them everywhere.  Not only can they call people, they can use a wide variety of programs to send pictures, messages and videos to other people all over the world.  Further, there is a different type of language that is used, whether abbreviations, emojis or gifs.  They don’t know a world without the internet, without smart phones.  Their entire lives are filtered through these technologies.  This is why phones, Ipads and computers are a big deal for our students.  And regardless of our opinions on the matter, it does not look like it is going to change any time soon. 

Many people are frustrated by that, because their experience as a student was very different.  There is a gap in understanding of why, which often times leads to staff responding in accordance with expectations, but students responding in ways that seem completely out of place.  Many adults see these pieces of technology as tools that may or may not be necessary, but for most of our students, it is part of daily life, a part of who they are, much like your wallet or keys.  The more that we are able to understand how our students think and operate, the easier it will be to manage classroom behavior.  Consider the following two examples:

Example A: Upon check-in, the substitute asks the office how they would like them to approach seeing students on their phones and are told they are to be taken and held until the end of class.  During classroom instruction, students are texting on their phones in their lap.  The substitute says, “If I see your phone, I am going to take it until the end of class.”  The students put their phones away, but when the substitute isn’t looking, they begin to snicker back and forth, and their hands quickly move from their lap to the desk and pick up their pencils.  Growing more frustrated with the lack of respect and compliance with expectations, they catch one of the students with their phone in their hand.  Immediately they march toward the student and in order to show they are upholding the consequences, proclaim, “I see your phone.  I need you to give it to me now!”  The student who is now embarrassed and upset vehemently refuses.  The situation escalates until the substitute calls the office for help because they lost control of their students.

Example B: Upon check-in, the substitute asks the office how they would like them to approach seeing students on their phones and are told they are to be taken and held until the end of class.  During classroom instruction, students are texting on their phones in their lap.  The substitute says, “I see a number of you have been or are on your phones.  While I understand that there may be things happening, the expectations for today are to have them put away.   If I see them, I will need you to give me your phone for the rest of class.”  The students put their phones away, but when the substitute isn’t looking, they begin to snicker back and forth, and their hands quickly move from their lap to the desk and pick up their pencils.  Maintaining calm and understanding how “plugged in” students are, the substitute catches a student with their phone in their hand.  They quietly move over to the student and privately say, “I saw you had your phone out.  Due to the classroom expectations, unfortunately, I will need to put it in the desk for the rest of class.  Would you please hand it to me for safe keeping and I’ll give it back after class is over?”  The student tries to quietly refuse, but through calm discussion, gives the phone to the substitute. 

In these two examples, we had the same situation, but they resolved very differently simply due to the substitute coming from a place of understanding the difference in culture.  The first substitute didn’t understand how important it was for students to be “plugged in” to technology and took the situation personally and unintentionally lost control of the entire class.  The second, utilizing understanding, was able to address the situation calmly, because it wasn’t personal.  They were able to respect the student’s privacy in dealing with the violation of classroom expectations and uphold the expectation.

One of our district teachers said that “technology magnifies your classroom management,” meaning if you have great skills, it helps you.  If you have poor skills, it makes them worse.  The more we understand the impact of technology on our students and how they relate to that technology, the easier it will be to help manage the behavior and maintain a positive learning environment.