I am encountering some digital problems these days in my junior Macbeth classes. The standards of courteous behavior are changing so quickly in all aspects of our culture that my head is spinning. It is no longer impolite to check your phone while conversing in person, or let the door slam in the face of the person behind you. And my students do not seem to know how to enter and exit elevators without creating a tangle of backpacks and arms and legs that slows everyone down. I also cannot expect that they understand the convenience of one person speaking at a time; this simple lesson has become a week one routine for me over the past 5 years. But the change that has become most confusing, exhilarating and irritating all at the same time is texting.
It also creates an adversarial relationship with me, their teacher. I want to use their devices in class, and hopefully that will become possible at my school someday soon. But now I am supposed to be on the lookout for texting, and then confiscate the offender's phone and write a demerit, all while I am teaching, or facilitating group work, or listening to their poems aloud. I cannot do all this efficiently. And even some students admit that when they are engaged in texting, they have no idea what is going on in class--though there are those that can do it. (I know, I did it as a kid. I read a book on my lap, while listening to what was going on with one ear. ) So what do I do?
Shakespeare is hard--at least at first. You have to concentrate to begin to enjoy it. He is NOT boring. I am NOT boring. It is NOT irrelevant. Attention must be paid. Critical thinking skills cannot be developed in a social context 100% of the time. Close reading of literature requires a single mindedness that becomes easier and enjoyable with time, but it must be practiced. But what are we to do when they risk social suicide by engaging in class instead of texting their anxiety away?