METRO BEIJING / TWOCENTS-OPINION
Phone-schooled
Published: Sep 13, 2018 07:28 PM

Illustration: Peter C. Espina/GT





When I was a student, I recall being quite the rascal especially in math class. I wish I had a smartphone that I could have stashed inside a textbook or binder to later take me away if the lesson became too boring. Unless I was engaged in lessons from an eccentric English literature teacher or an active Arts teacher who openly demanded participatory discussion, the classroom seemed like a prison.

However, I had no choice but to be on time, have a notebook, a pen, a course book and most importantly, look attentive and have respect for my teacher. Just showing up to class was merely unacceptable and mobile phones were prohibited in the classroom.

It's quite the opposite for many students of Gen Z. I recently saw a viral video on WeChat where students were impressively finding new ways to make secret mobile phone holders out of the stacks of textbooks on their desks. A few of the students in the clickbait clip literally cut out square boxes inside the pages of the textbooks to make custom fitted phone compartments enabling them to play on their phones while class is in session.

Pretty savvy, right? Well, it got me thinking as to what is becoming of the role of a modern teacher. Should teachers still be regarded as a disseminator of knowledge, a promoter of active learning and a mentor who teaches people life skills as they've done in the past? Or are they merely becoming a consultant, who designs a personally tailored curriculum as a guide to tell students what apps and resources they should use to learn on their own?

The buzz around Beijing from some of my teacher acquaintances is that they are finding that it's quite the battle competing with the technology on their students' phones. The problem isn't that educators can't find innovative technological solutions, but capturing this generation's attention spans in a 50-minute lesson seems to be the challenge. Of course, there are many technologically ingenious teachers and all this generation's students have the ability to concentrate, but knowledge is becoming digitized at a rapid rate. Like journalists, I think teachers are finding it quite difficult to keep up with their audiences' preferences for clickbait and a fewer word count.

I miss the little things, like literally daydreaming in the middle of lessons, breaking my pencil head while attempting a math problem, and the teachers who built classroom activities using crayons and construction paper in which they displayed in handwriting on a blackboard or an old slide projector. We simply learned what we were taught, and most importantly, we learned more by asking teachers questions. Teachers created handmade lessons, with limited resources and most importantly, a purpose to teach us something we didn't already know.

So, try to cut your teachers some slack and realize that they desire your attention just as much as your phone does. Stick your smart phone in your pocket for 50 minutes and be amazed at what you might learn from someone dedicating their career to educating you. Share the learning experience and interact; whether it be discussing an old paperback text or solving math equations on the blackboard.

Let's face it, we all have the opportunity to be phone-schooled outside of the classroom.

This article was published on the Global Times Metropolitan section Two Cents page, a space for reader submissions, including opinion, humor and satire. The ideas expressed are those of the author alone, and do not represent the position of the Global Times.


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