Monday, February 16, 2009

Passing Notes

I was a student that was just hitting the beginning of the technological wave. We had a computer lab in my high school and several other computers for use in the library, but they were used only for word processing and (if you could score a computer in the alcove where the librarians didn't often walk) sending email.

At that time, some information was available online but it was not a resource tool. Teachers did not bring their classes to their computer lab (that space was reserved for keyboarding class) nor were there enough computers in the library to have a whole class go to use them. But, even more importantly, what could they be used for besides writing papers and email? It would be more hassle to make sure that students stayed on task writing their papers and not checking their email than it would be to just give them a piece of paper.

But think what we would do with pieces of paper! If asked to write an assignment by hand, we could draw a doodle in the upper corner, embellishing our name with flowers and swirls instead of creating an essay. Paper airplanes could be made, which would distract the whole class. And worst of all, we could communicate with each other- writing notes secretly back and forth, where the language might not be completely pure. We would shorthand names and events so that if the note was intercepted, it might not be understood. As we left the classroom, we would scrunch the paper into a ball and drop it in the trash can.

Today, I read an article from the New York Times about cellphones being embraced (but more likely not) for usage in the classroom. Four schools in North Carolina gave students a cellphone with 900 minutes of talk time and 300 text messages per month. The teachers are required to go through the students' text records to see if they said anything naughty and cutting them off if they did.

It makes me think about about my history teacher in high school. He must have seen the paper fly across the isle between me and best friend. He said nothing, although we did try to be slightly discrete about it. I can't imagine that after we left the classroom, he went to the trash to dig out our paper and check for the appropriateness of our words. And if our messages happened to not be appropriate, I can't see the need for a school wide ban for us to not use paper because we used it once for communicating about our private lives with each other.

In the long run, isn't that what school is about? Between the snippets of learning, you get a chance to communicate and socialize with others your age. How is checking email and sending texts any worse than passing notes back and forth?

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