Saturday, May 28, 2016

Old tricks

SOME old tricks are worth teaching to new dogs.

I took part in undergraduates’ defense of their research six times last week. Just before the panelists quizzed the researchers about their studies, the students were asked to record the comments and suggestions for incorporating in the final manuscript.

When instructed to record the discussion, the students whipped out their smartphones. However, when asked to also write notes as a back-up documentation, the Millennials scrambled for paper and pen.

This sequence happened six times with 16 different young people. After the last defense, I concluded that a mobile phone is to a Millennial what pen and paper were to my generation.

Not surprisingly, during all sessions, I was the only one writing notes with a pen (at 50, I was the oldest in the classroom).

I didn’t even take out my basic mobile phone because I kept an eye on the time with a kiddie’s wristwatch whose dial design of Mickey Mouse and Pluto keeps me buoyed up, specially during the college finals appropriately named Hell Week.

Our state-funded classrooms are far from hi-tech; the students are. Many students prefer that their teachers post their presentations, assignments, and class updates on social media, preferably Facebook, according to a qualitative study conducted early this year by UP Cebu Mass Communication seniors Julienne Hazel E. Penserga and Stephanie S. Adalin.

While most of the UP Cebu teachers interviewed by the tandem preferred face-to-face engagement and avoided Facebook as too personal for academic use, the students did not perceive the social media portal as intrusive. For these Millennials, academic pursuits should also be online since technology already connects seamlessly the many spheres of their young lives.

There’s much to recommend the real-time speed by which information is transmitted through new media. However, some shortcuts bear watching and correcting.

For instance, young people now rarely make notes. During student-faculty consultations, my fellow teachers and I observed how we have to tell students to write down the points of discussion. Anything that is not visual or viral usually passes like liquid through the colander of Millennial attention.

Whether it’s passively listening and then snapping with one’s smartphone a professor’s whiteboard scribbling or PowerPoint Presentation, many youths rarely sieve, examine and reflect—which writing accomplishes reflexively.

I didn’t think I would but I worry that this generation doesn’t doodle enough or vandalize arm rests, the classic gauge for student inattention. Is it because the chairs are now plastic or they are too caught up with Facebook status updates?

Arni Aclao’s photo of early shoppers checking piles of notebooks and papers was rousing. Last May 25, Sun.Star Cebu’s Jeandie O. Galolo reported that savvy parents are buying downtown, where school supplies are sold cheaper than the suggested retail price.

According to the trade and industry advisory, a writing notebook is priced cheapest at P9; a pencil at P3 per piece; and a ballpen, P4. For less than P50, a student can be equipped with the fundamental tools for active listening, recording, comprehending and learning.

With change from the P50, a young person can still buy one national broadsheet and a local daily. Read and reread: some things never go out of style.

( 09173226131)

* First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s May 29, 2016 issue of the Sunday editorial-page column, “Matamata”

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