Over the last year edubloggers have discussed more and more the role of mobile phones in educational technology, recognizing the near-native ability that young people have with text messaging and "info sharing" (read: photos and music). What happens though, after the final bell rings and those same young people head for the school parking lot?
Today was a slow day for me, so I got to watch Dr. Phil for the first time in my life. Today's show was about teens who read and compose text messages while driving. Dr. Phil interviewed a 17-year-old girl who has been driving for 4 months, and who averages 5000 text messages a month. He also had on the show a young man who struck a man on a bicycle with his car while text messaging; the man later died from his injuries.
The tenacity of these teens' addiction to texting parallels that of other substance abuses. I've seen similar cases in Turkey (and not limited to teenagers), but what I haven't seen are programs that impress upon people the seriousness of this kind of behavior while driving. At the very least, we can borrow a question from Dr. Phil and calculate how far a car going 80 kph will travel during the 2 seconds it takes to take your eyes off the road and look at a text message.
I'm going out on a limb here, but I think that before mobile phones get mainstreamed into the classroom there ought to be some way to ensure more responsible phone use outside of class. The last thing we want is to require students to become even more dependent on something that can cost a life.
For more on this episode of Dr. Phil, follow this link: Dr. Phil.com - Shows - Season 6 Premiere
On a related note, one new TV commercial I've noticed since we came to the US this summer shows a car salesman pointing out the features of a new car to a couple of young men. The best selling point turns out to be a dock for an MP3 player in the car's dashboard. So much for encouraging teenagers to think critically and make good choices.
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