John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education

Texting as Surrogate Touch

I am usually on at least one different campus a week and no matter where I may find myself, I always note the same: students walking around texting and/or talking on their hand held electronic devices.

I understand this. The allure of somebody reaching out to me to communicate something is indeed powerful. Somebody needs me. Somebody wants me. Somebody is giving me attention. I am noticed. I am affirmed. These are universal human needs and we have never before possessed such addictive ways of getting them met.

But I have to wonder if we could find other ways to meet student needs, to give them attention, reach out to them, affirm them, that might offset some of this constant need for electronic attention. I guess my even wondering about this reveals my nostalgia for days gone by when people on campus resorted to other means of communication. OK, let’s say I accept this new age with no resistance. As I move on I still want to ask: aren’t there other ways, more ways, that we could be paying attention to our students, letting them know they are noticed and important?

-John Gardner

One Comment

  1. KRGuidryNovember 15, 2010 at 1:01 pmReply

    It's not a zero sum game. So to answer your questions: Yes, there are other ways and more ways we can pay attention to and let our students know they're noticed and important. But why should electronic media not be among those ways if they're appropriate and available?

    I also wonder if "students" (such an incredibly large, diverse group of people!) really exhibit a "constant need for electronic attention." That seems like a negative and somewhat misleading way to describe what is happening. I don't think "electronic" has much to do with this at all. Nor do I think that many of these students are exhibiting a "need for attention" as much as they're filling time and conversing with their friends, the same things we did when we were their age. They can simply do it more effectively and efficiently. :)

    Finally, I am always amused and saddened at how quick we are to forget that our children are all too often exactly who we have raised them to be. Of course they fill their time with games and electronic chatter! We've modeled the behavior so effectively by filling as much of their lives as possible with as much media as possible to ensure they grow into consumers of our products!

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