The Turn to Technology

This summer I’ve been writing a lot about technology. It plays a role in Twelve Months of Awkward Moments arriving August 30 and the short story I’ve just completed called “Redemption Lake”. Writing about it in a fictional sense also has me pondering the effects of social media and technology in the classroom.

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Every day I enter the classroom to witness students playing the latest game on their device or texting a friend or family member.  Even when I say “put you phone away,” I see the occasional student glancing secretively toward his or her lap, trying to hide the fact that a cell phone is there and a message is being sent or received.  According to the Pew Research Group1, as of January 2014: 90% of adults in the United States have a cell phone. There is little doubt that technology, especially cell phones, has changed our lives.

I work on the computer every day, whether marketing my books, writing, or teaching online college classes, and I use my cell phone to send messages and stay up to date with email.  Like my students, I also can’t resist the pull of popular Candy Crush and Words with Friends (I feel old because these games have come and gone in their popularity).  My cell phone at my bedside in case of an emergency call from a family member or so I can check Submittable to see if I have any acceptances or rejections.

I read “The Pedestrian” and “The Veldt” by Ray Bradbury with my high school students and every time, I began to think about the consequences of technology in our lives. I hope both my new book, Twelve Months of Awkward Moments, and my short story “Redemption Lake” (if it is ever published) will open discussion on how technology has changed society, especially teens.

social mediaDoubtless, cell phones have many benefits in and out of the classroom.  Knowing that my daughter can reach me at any time makes me feel secure.  I can get GPS and directions when driving using MapQuest and Google.  My students look up information, record homework, read books, and even type essays on their phones.

News also comes quickly these days as well, but not always accurately. I live in a town that borders Sandy Hook, Connecticut and remember the day of the school shooting in December of 2012.  In class with students, phones suddenly began to buzz as they started to receive news about the tragedy.  At first it was reported that there were two shooters.  The number of student and teachers involved changed minute to minute.  Many of the students with friends in the nearby community were distraught and panicked.

Getting the news quickly is often advantageous, but when it is not accurate, like in the case of Sandy Hook, it can create a panic. And raise anxiety. It is important to consider how the same cell phone that might create an adverse situation, can also rectify it. Cell phones made it easy for students to connect with parents, helping the school in a time of possible crisis.  But this abundance of bad news and stressful information can also create the feelings of anxiety and stress in the younger generation.

Is there a clear answer whether technology in and out of the classroom is helpful or harmful?  The same Pew Research Fact Sheet1 stated that “67% of cell owners find themselves checking their phone for messages, alerts, or calls — even when they don’t notice their phone ringing or vibrating.”  Schools have an electronic use policy, which can range from no phones in any class to appropriate usage being decided by the teacher.  Most of the times, teaching cell phone etiquette and responsible use is enough to hold class without disruption, there are other consequences to technology to consider.

Using a phone or computer as a buffer can isolate individuals. How many chances of holding face-to-face conversations are replaced with text messages, Snapchats, and Instagram.  Individuals can miss the opportunity to engage in society, meet new people, and partake in life experiences. In the end, society will have to find the balance, but in a world that often prefers instantaneous gratification and excess, is that possible?

Do you think there is a connection between more technology use and the rise in student anxiety?

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  1. (http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheets/mobile-technology-fact-sheet/)

Anxiously Waiting

Twelve Months of Awkward Moments arrives August 30. I’m anxious. Not your normal new book anxious, but the kind of emotion that interferes with every day life.

I could write about my main character Dani suffering from anxiety because I’ve lived it, and gee, it’s not fun. I don’t know when it began. I was always a quiet, sensitive, and weird child. I grew up in a dysfunctional family — story for another day.

My memories of school include not talking and being scared of every adult. One of my teachers made me so nervous, I puked in class. But it was always part of life. Growing up in the 70s and 80s it wasn’t a diagnosis, and it took me years to think about it that way.

I’ve learned to manage and my personal anxiety has given me a lot of empathy for the students in the class who suffer from it.  The next time I’m too quiet, it is because I don’t want to say the wrong thing.  I’ll remember my stupidity for years. The next time I skip a party it is because I’d rather have a stomach bug than be in a situation where I could possibly do something wrong. Days before the party, all the “what if” scenarios scream through my head.

I’m still recovering from Yale and Rutgers. Amazing experiences that left me so drained emotionally and physically.  Anxiety plays out not only in your mind but in your body.

I’m hoping Twelve months of Awkward Moments might shed some light on what students go through. I’m hoping you’ll get a copy and talk to me about it.

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