Recently, I had a discussion with several older colleagues about how to address the issue of students texting, blogging, or updating their social media in class. The discussion was sparked by news of several professors across the continent instituting a policy of walking out of the classroom whenever they see students engage in any of the above-mentioned activities. I have to say that I was the only academic who expressed no annoyance with students doing these things in class.
In my experience, there are few groups as resistant to the introduction of new technology into our daily lives as academics. Whenever a colleague sees me with my Kindle or hears me talk about my PowerPoint presentations, a look of enormous disgust appears on their faces. It is as if reading books on Kindle were an equivalent of a professed hatred of reading per se. Still, we have to accept the reality where we now have an entire generation (of which I am a happy member) that lives glued to a cell phone, Kindle, iPad, iPod, and anything in between. Getting annoyed with people who can't maintain a conversation for ten minutes without feeling compelled to glance on their cell phone or BlackBerry is useless because every day there are more of us. Technology has changed the way we live. Now, it will of necessity change the way we communicate, teach, read, learn, and do pretty much everything.
I wish my fellow academics were more accepting of these new modes of behavior and tried seeing their productive side. At the last academic conference I visited, I didn't dare use my BlackBerry while people were speaking. At a certain point, I was dying to send a text message to my friends who were in the same building about the talk I was listening to because I knew they would have been extremely interested in it. I didn't do it because some people insist on seeing a turned on cell phone as offensive.
I don't get offended with students who text, tweet or blog in class because I do it too. Whenever my students are writing an exam or a mini-quiz, I use that time to write a blog post or read something on my Kindle. At least, my students don't see that as offensive and threaten to walk out of the classroom if I do it.