Cyber Socialising in the Classroom and Lecture Theatre?

Is it me, or are classrooms and lecture theatres these days becoming the place for Cyber socialising?  The classroom of course should be a place where socialising is encouraged and promoted but to what extent?  The advent of the Internet, the rising popularity of social media use and our access to technology are redefining our perceptions of what socialising is.

Social Media sites are hugely popular and their use is increasingly dependent on technological progress.  This, coupled with the “any time, any place” attitude socialisers have developed , is having an effect on social behaviour and expectations of students. Gone is the power of the teacher as the omnipotent source of information. Today it’s as easy to Google what you are being taught whilst the lecturer is simultaneously talking, as it is to socialise in lectures while hiding behind your laptop.

When I was in High School back in the nineties, the classroom was devoid of electronic distractions and socialising was limited to the schoolyard at break times or after school. Now it seems our network of friends is not only limited to our physical environment.  At University my attempts at socialising took place in the student union bar. Technology was increasingly influential in everyday life but I was definitely not reliant on it to have a semi-decent social life.

It wasn’t until 2006, working as a teacher that I was finally fortunate enough to have, what I thought to be, astonishing technology at my fingertips both in my non-professional life and in the classroom.  A laptop, the World Wide Web and an interactive whiteboard immediately connected my pupils and I with the rest of the world. Together we were not only able to learn but we were able to share our knowledge almost instantly with others. It actually made teaching fun and interesting! However all too soon, students expected its use in every lesson and it became challenging to use this technology in an effective and novel way.

I’ve now put my career on hold and have gone back to studying. Funnily enough the 12 year olds I taught back in 06 are the same age as the 17-18 year olds I am now studying with.  The same 17-18 year olds who spend their lectures twittering or facebooking, the same seemingly blasé students, who in their pursuit for eternal connectivity and belonging are perhaps forfeiting their education.

“I am always on Facebook- in class, on public transport, at home when I watch TV. I can easily juggle Facebook with other things” says Brendan 17. 

Why should Brendan 17, get to spend most of a lecture on Facebook only to turn to me at the end of the lesson for an explanation on a group assessment? Is it unfair of me to expect full focus from my fellow students just as I would expect from colleagues? When I question Brendan on his productivity and input in lectures he assures me that he is skilled enough in the art of multi tasking for it to not affect his studies.

Charlotte, 22 also spends most of her lectures visiting different social media sites. She, on the other hand is fully convinced that their constant, deliberate use will bring about her academic demise. Not a good enough reason, apparently though, to curb her enthusiasm.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am neither a technophobe nor a stuck up mature student.  I’m hip. I have cool stuff. In fact I recently acquired a long awaited iPhone, which has changed my life. I know I am not the only one who can’t survive for more than an hour without consulting FB, Twitter, checking emails, rechecking emails and ahem…re rechecking emails. During class time however, the phone goes on silent and out of sight, the laptop remains on task.

I do understand though how a generation who has grown up with easy access to what I still consider to be a novelty could easily bypass an education in Cyber social media etiquette. I believe teachers are aware of this phenomenon therefore it’s up to them to promote the use of these sites in a responsible manner. Asking students to refrain from such sites for an hour class is no big deal if they know they’ll have a five-minute break to reconnect. It not only teaches discipline and reward and reminds them that certain boundaries can be beneficial.

jessicamestre :


* indicates required