Archive for Cathy Gulli
If students text too much, they don’t learn independence
On any given day, sociology professor Barbara Mitchell and her 22-year-old daughter, who lives at home while attending university, will trade multiple text messages. They may be “just checking in” with each other, says Mitchell, or confirming one another’s safe arrival someplace, arranging care for the family pets or sharing humorous bits of information. “We’re very, very close. And she encourages me to text her,” says Mitchell, who teaches at Simon Fraser University. “I remember when I first got my smartphone, I was texting her a couple of times a day, and I didn’t want to come across like I’m this controlling mother who has to be in her life all the time. And she was like, ‘No, text me more!’ I was so surprised. I think it gives [kids] a sense of security.”
Mitchell’s concern is understandable; moms have long had a reputation for hovering over their children—the very word “mothering” is synonymous with “keeping tabs on.” But as Mitchell’s story shows, the parent-child paradigm is shifting, with many kids in their late teens and 20s now actively engaging in, and even initiating, frequent contact with their folks about everything from new recipes and music to relationship and academic problems. It’s a phenomenon Barbara Hofer, a psychology professor at Middlebury College in Vermont, has coined “the digital tether.” The term came to her while observing many students on their cellphones: “I was eavesdropping on these conversations and realizing that they weren’t just talking to their friends, they were talking to their parents—on the way to class, on the way to the gym, [as] they’d walk out of the dorm,” she recalls. “And texting has just added an additional layer of conversation.”
A Waterloo start-up provides courses on smartphones
To hear Dean Pacey describe online learning is a lesson in how the Internet—despite its vastness—can actually be a very personal place. In fact, taking courses over a computer, he believes, has the potential to make education more intimate and effective than any typical class-teacher setting, which is often full of distractions.
“When I go to university and I sign up for psych 100, I’m sitting with 1,500 other students with one talking head who I can’t hear and who may or may not speak English well at the front of the room,” he says. “How is that a rich experience?”
By comparison, Pacey imagines a world in which students in any country can pick and choose the courses they’d like to take over the Internet from the best international schools, many of which are in Canada. These courses would feature video lectures, online chats and news feeds related to the content, and would be delivered in whatever language the student preferred. Even more surprising: while the course content could be viewed on a computer screen or tablet, it would be designed, first and foremost, for smartphones—making the “classroom” entirely mobile and available anytime, anywhere.