I spend a lot of time looking at my phone and tablet. Probably too much time. Some of the time I spend looking at screens happens during meetings.
This rarely goes over well.
I can feel the looks. The judgement. Thoughts so loud they’re audible, “He’s probably screwing around on Facebook instead of paying attention.”
But I’m not. I swear I’m not screwing around on my phone. I’m certainly not looking at Facebook. The only reason I’d do that is to remember why I don’t look at Facebook (hint- it’s because I want to continue to like some of my friends).
I’m taking notes. I’m looking up the person who wrote the article you’re referencing. I’m taking pictures of the graph you’re showing in case this slidedeck doesn’t come with a link. I’m looking at corgi pictures on Instagram because you just read us three slides of text and I thought I might die.
For many teachers, the technology revolution is here. It’s been here for years. We’re in it and we’re living it. I’ve said many times that Google Drive has saved my life. I type all my notes out on Drive. Why? In one word- autosave. Every time Drive’s mobile app updates I do a little dance of joy because that’s just the kind of nerd I am.
We of the digital revolution are not yet the majority. Teachers and districts talk a big game about being up on the revolution, but not all have internalized what that means. It means giving a presentation to a room full of people looking back and forth between you and a screen. I do a decent amount of speaking to rooms full of teachers and I still think that’s strange. As a communicator you want to make eye contact with your audience. As a presenter you want to know they’re engaged and coming with you. And when you see the tops of heads and glowing faces you kind of suspect they are checking Facebook while you’re busy working very hard to be interesting.
Perhaps the key is to put the onus on the presenter to make her/his technology usage requests clear. In my first five minutes should I tell my audience, “I realize you’re taking notes with your device and that’s cool, but try to stay with me. You’re going to miss the meat if you’re busy trying to tweet the appetizers.” I believe you should never livetweet a movie the first time you see it. Then you’re not being in the movie, you’re commenting on it. Livetweeting a keynote would be a similar thing. Someone is Periscoping it, find the feed afterwards and tweet the greatest hits. Tweeting is not notetaking. To me. I just felt myself get older when I typed that though, so what does Grandpa Robertson know?
I look at my phone during trainings and meetings. I need to develop the technology self-control to not be checking twitter while I’m taking notes in Docs. Presenters and administrators need to have the self-assurance that the audience is exercising that same self control.
It’s a strange balancing act right now. The Tech Forward Teachers are modeling responsible usage for the skittish and downright anti-tech among us. It’s not going away, we know that and they know that, even if they don’t want to admit it. But everyone motivates in different ways, and pushy doesn’t move product like polite. When I’m quote unquote taking notes on my phone I had better be taking notes on my phone. Show the teachers who look annoyed at my tap-tap-tapping (swype-swype-swyping go Android) that my notes are as good as their notes and mine can be projected on the screen and shared in a snap. We want them to join us, entice with the candy of ease and not the fear of being left behind. Model good digital citizenship in meetings.
If we can’t do it, how can we be expected to trust our kids to pull it off?
I’d love to see some conversation about this in the comments. How do you feel about taking digital notes? How do you feel about livetweeting a speaker?
Doug Robertson is the CUE blog editor and a tenth-year teacher currently talking at fifth graders in Northern Oregon. He’s taught in California, Hawaii, and Oregon in 3rd, 4th, and 6th grades. He’s the author of two books about education, He’s the Weird Teacher and THE Teaching Text (You’re Welcome) and an active blogger. Doug speaks at teaching conferences including CUE Rock Star Teacher Camps, presenting on everything from technology to teaching philosophy (or teaching The Weird Way, to use his words). Doug is also the creator and moderator of #WeirdEd on Twitter, which happens every Wednesday at 7pm PST. He’s probably trying not to check his phone right now.