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Sorry about the lack of posts. I have been visiting elderly parents in a techno-free zone.

As I sat in the early 20th century house with its tub, but no shower, I reflected on how little we talk about the maelstrom of technology that is sweeping learning down the technological drain.

Smartboards are nifty. Interactive technology is frequently an educational win. I’m not technophobic in the least.

But those phones are doing damage, especially at the high school level. It used to be that you needed to be sitting near your friend or girlfriend to pass notes. Now you don’t even have to be in the same city. In a large classroom, students can stash phones in laps and behind books or bags as they tune out the outside world while tap tap tapping class minutes away. They are usually easy to spot. A student can only stare fixedly at his or her lap for so long before the teacher should start walking toward that phone.

Eduhonesty: Unless you are in the classroom, I believe it’s probably hard to visualize how much trouble these phones represent in the aggregate. Readers probably think, “Well, seize the phones!” We do sometimes. It’s a lot of work and trouble to be grabbing up phones, though. I’ve known captured phones to disappear from the Dean’s Office. I’ve known students to claim their phones were damaged while in school custody. While some parents may be supportive of the school’s disciplinary actions, others will storm into school, loudly demanding that the school return their property. Personal privacy issues quickly come into play too.

Many schools have somewhat of a handle on the phone challenge, but no school I know of has managed to gain total control of phones. These small rectangular solids suck up educational minutes, turning them into opportunities to misspell and butcher the English language while making dates to meet in some adult-free house after school. I have scanned message threads when picking up phones.

This is for the parents: You want your kids to be safe. That’s why you bought the phone probably, along with a need to quiet the chorus of “But everybody has one!” Just about everybody does have one by high school, no matter how poor the district. Middle schools don’t lack for phones either. I feel compelled to give some advice, though: Check those phones when you can. You need to know that Tom’s aunt works and the house is always empty in the afternoon. You need to know that Penelope is meeting Tom at that house every afternoon. Even if the messages are more innocuous, you need to know that your son or daughter somehow managed to spend hours on the phone when they were supposed to be learning math and English.