Twitchy Fingers

I’ve noticed that many of my students are developing a disorder involving twitchy fingers and thumbs. They are so used to constant cell phone usage that they either can’t put their cell phones down during class or they go into nervous withdrawal if forced to put away the devices for more than 10 minutes.

I know some professors who have gone to extremes by collecting cell phones in a small tub at the start of each class. One popular YouTube clip even shows an angry professor theatrically slamming a student’s cell phone to the floor.

As a mass media instructor, I’m both frustrated and fascinated by the twitching. As I’m teaching, I’ll occasionally notice a student studying my patterns of eye contact to find just the right moment to punch a few cell-phone buttons without my noticing.

I have to be careful before I launch into a tirade when I see a student punching buttons on a cell phone in class. On at least two occasions involving group work, I’ve confronted a perceived offender only to discover that the student really was using an Internet connection via cell phone to do research for the group.

futureman2Sure, I could rant about the death of attention spans, but instead I want to imagine a future that even goes beyond wearable finger-based cell phones. What if the cell phone were merely an extension of our hands? And rather than using our fingers to input, our fingers would be the actual input device. One of my students, Cate Richards, shares a similar vision in the artwork to the right.

What if students came equipped with independent touch typing technology that allowed them to enter answers from their seats with no wires and no cell phone?

In short, should we combat the twitchy finger disorder with more instead of less technology?

THE VERDICT: UNPLUG — Ultimately, I think the twitchy fingers and thumbs are merely an indicator of an out-of-shape attention span that needs more self-discipline and mental exercise.

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~ by dbozmedia on December 1, 2008.

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