Media can be used in various ways, and particular forms of media are shaped by the ways that people use them for communication. New media is always closely intertwined with communication and/or technology, and is an assemblage of some sort.
I currently sit in some junior secondary classrooms to observe as a researcher and am reminded of communication disruptions that have not changed over the years. Announcements over a public address (PA) system bring back many memories to me as a former classroom teacher, of having something important to say in to my class of students (with only two minutes to go before the bell rings) and then being interrupted by someone else (on the PA) who believes that what they have to say is far more important.
The technological communication (via the PA) is required but it disrupts what isn’t seen, yet the announcements are considered by those issuing them as helpful, important and necessary.
In a recent observation, a group of students were discussing wall postings made on a course site of Schoology (imagine a Facebook wall of postings). Each student in the class had their own digital device (notebook or laptop, in this instance). These particular comments made on this private Schoology site (pertinent to and only accessible to a particular year level and curriculum area) were not about the content taught in the class. The technology was able to preserve the rather ordinary discussion (see below) and this enabler meant that students were able to verbally discuss the virtual textual artefacts during class. While the original communication occurred virtually (on Schoology), commentary about the virtual discussion occurred during real time, in class, and was disruptive.
As I reflect on my own teaching experiences and connect these with my experiences as a researcher, I am aware that if students are disengaged in a lesson or from the teacher, then the technology available to them (whether a notebook, laptop, or smartphone) means that another opportunity is readily available to them for distraction (or entertainment). If they aren’t entertained or on-task, or engaged, then digital technologies provide another way for students to be off task. This can be done quietly and individually without distracting others, but can be done socially as in a classroom with numerous students, the opportunity to share images, textual artefacts, websites and discuss them is now possible.
Communication technologies in numerous forms provide another way for kids to be distracted if they are not engaged in a lesson. It provides another way to fill in time, to pass the time, to be stimulated, to ‘play’. It provides another way to disrupt and to be disruptive. But as I say all of this, I know this research is not about classroom management of behaviour, high expectations, and teacher ‘control’ of students. Yet, I can’t see how these things can’t be significant shapers of children’s focused and beneficial use of digital technologies.
The text below is taken from a Schoology course but it should be noted that most of the posts were made on a Sunday afternoon.
Girl 1 – I saw it
Boy 1 – Was this comment really necessary? Because personally, I don’t think it was (three likes).
Girl 2 – Do you think that your comment on this comment is necessary? OH SNAAAAAP!!!! (four likes)
Boy 2 – Code 11 Shots fired, shots fired (four likes).
Boy 3 – Very funny Boy 2, very funny, lol
Boy 4 – It was actually me that said that when she was logged on, on my device. L.O.L. XD
Girl 1 – Thanks for sticking up for me Boy 4 (one like)
Boy 4 – I wasn’t sticking up for you I was just saying that L.O.L. XD
Boy 4 – Isn’t it funny that a little comment can start a discussion like this (one like)
Girl 1 – I know right Boy 4 (-) (-)