I remember watching old episodes of “Get Smart” where the bumbling agent Maxwell Smart would answer telephone calls from his shoe. I recall thinking to myself, “Wow! How amazing would that be if you could call anyone, at anytime, in any place from a device that is the size of your shoe? Little did I know that such a device would be possible in a few short years.
Given the relatively recent advent of cellular phones, it is remarkable how integral a part they play in our lives. Now I am not nearly as bad as many of my high school students who will literally break down in tears should I confiscate their phone (I can think of three such instances just last semester); nevertheless, the role it plays in my life is significant. It would be more significant if I had the time to utilize my phone to its maximum potential.
The phone that I currently use is not just an ordinary phone. Oh no. It is a “smart phone.” No it is not an iPhone. iPhones are in a different category. They should be called Einstein phones for all the things that they can do. Still, my phone is a rather capable device.
My cell phone plays a major role in my life, just like they do in most people’s lives. It actually makes one stop and think how life was before this magical machine. If I have to meet someone and I am not certain I know where they are, I can simply text them. Without the cell phone, this is impossible. Recently, while driving to a restaurant, a friend that we were going to meet for lunch called on my wife on her cell to inform us that the restaurant was closed and we would be changing venues. Twenty years ago that situation would have ended quite differently. It would have resulted in my friends discovering that the restaurant was closed and staying there until we arrived so that we could make other arrangements. If they called our house, they would have missed us. It is interesting how people can become quite vexed if the person they are calling does not answer their cell phone, or worst yet, if the do not have a cell phone.
In my job, I will use my cell phone trying to track down the students on my debate team. If we are competing in a tournament, quite often a student will be presenting his or her speech in room on the other side of a university campus. How do I quickly convey information to that person without a phone? If there is a room change or if there is a problem, my cell phone can quickly rectify the situation. Using the cell phone as a sort of electronic leash can have its advantages. This is one of those educational paradoxes where teachers complain about cell phones one moment but bless them the other minute. If students in my English class are texting, I will take their phone away. However, in my debate class, if critically needed debate evidence is required, my students can immediately text someone on the other side of the nation, where they would e-mail a document to my personal e-mail.
Of course the phone is just one of the many applications within the device itself. My calendar, appointment schedule, and to do list are all imperative to my everyday living. All too often I program a reminder in my phone to notify me of an upcoming event or of an important task that needs to be accomplished. Within 5 minutes or 25 minutes of an event, the phone chirps to remind me of the upcoming task.
The alarm clock is used everyone day on my phone. Since I get up earlier than my wife, I set the alarm clock on my phone to wake me up. And since setting an alarm clock or getting a wake up call at a hotel can be difficult or unreliable, I have come to depend on the alarm clock on my phone.
In the classroom, oddly enough, my phone has become very important. I have downloaded my grade book as one of the applications on my phone. This has become a very important tool in the effort to reduce paperwork and grading. When I give a small homework assignment that can be graded for completion rather than content, I program my students’ seating chart in my grade book so that I can simply walk up and down the rows of my classroom checking off the grade of the students’ assignment. This, of course, does not help with essay writing. But, it diminishes the number of papers I actually have to collect, hand grade, and hand back. Plus, after I sync up my phone with my lab top, the students know exactly how their grade from the assignment will impact their overall grade. This is very important as immediate feedback is an essential component to reinforce the significance of homework.
With all of the tremendous advantages that the new smart phones provide, there are some significant disadvantages that this new technology has inserted into contemporary living. Since most phones now have the ability to connect to the internet, play music, play movies, play video games, interface with Facebook, MySpace, etc., one has to ask the question if there is ever a point when there is too much entertainment. This new device allows entertainment to saturate every aspect of our life. If we are not listening to music, texting, talking, or watching a video, then we are probably Googling, Facebooking, or surfing the internet on our phone. This provides a remarkable amount of static and interference to our time to quietly reflect about life. The new cell phones provide us just another opportunity to hear the gossip from 3rd period art class, find out who is dating whom on the set of New Moon, & discover that Johnny is feeling blue from Facebook. The amount of time individuals have to quietly sit back and think about the meaning of life is rapidly diminishing. The time we have to ponder the really important questions regarding the universe seems to evaporate more each day. It is hard for an individual to have a movement to his/her self when there are so many mediums vying for his/her attention. All too often it is the popular culture that wins out. We need to know at what point a society becomes slaves to technology and popular culture. If we don’t, society will lose its significance.