I’ve been on both sides of this debate:
To allow or not allow students to use technology during programming?
Before the age of the smart phones, & tablets it honestly used to be an easier answer. If they had a phone or handheld gaming system in hand, they were distracted. Leave it home or hand it over.
The heart of the matter is that we want students fully engaged. In a world that is so driven by being “plugged in,” it’s actually nice to teach them how to disconnect and focus for a period of time.
Up until very recently my total answer was NO to allowing any tech use during our time together. Smartphone, tablet, computer- nope.
I went the “bucket” method of asking them to hand them over the moment they walked in the door. I tried the “If I see it, I keep it method.” Then I realized that even though I put verses on a screen, passed out printed copies of the passages or went the *GASP* “Old- School” route of actually passing out Bibles, many of my students weren’t reading or studying at home. Good or bad, whether I agree or not, pulling out a “book” at home felt like school to them. Many tried and if they didn’t understand something they just gave up. They felt embarassed it didn’ make sense to them. What I realized was that I wanted them to start READING their Bible daily ON THEIR OWN, beyond their time with me. This meant for our group, for this time, changing strategy and meeting them in “their world.”
I realized how in my own life my children see me reading my Bible on an app more often than in a hardbound copy. So I allowed them “in.”
Here is what we did:
No headphones ever. They come out of the ears the moment they walk through the door. Cell phones and tablets are away during non-small group times. If we see them, they use a handout during discussion times. We ask them to “turn off” all “push notifications” during study time. This way we can ensure they are “just” in the Bible app, we still ask them to take notes by hand.
This has been a great way to teach student’s how to find answers to questions. I’m working on using this time as a way to find verses, commentaries and ideas. They want to know the “why” of something? Don’t take my word or the leaders word for it, let’s take a look at the commentaries, dictionaries, and studies.
Go One Step Further
I work with a mix of churched and unchurched students. This can create a gap in who knows where what is in the Bible. The techno method creates an inclusive environment to all participating. Then I am giving them ways to look through things at home. They can’t tell me they “lost it,” unless they deleted it. I use “text-otions.” Each day they get a thought and a link to a scripture to check out.
Is this a work in progress? Absolutely. I may have a group that can’t handle it in the future and they may have to go away. Does everyone even HAVE a phone? Nope. So we have to have handouts still and other methods so students can engage. On trips I do remove the distraction except for pictures and once a day to check in at home.
For me I realized I was living in fear of the one that would “take advantage.” It’s not perfect- but I decided to try.
What about you? What side do you land on this one.