By the end of fourth-period lunch last Tuesday, numerous brown baskets could be spotted dotting the tables in Paresky Commons. Although some students assumed the baskets were for the bones of their chicken wings, those who had checked their emails understood that they were meant as a place to leave cell phones during meals in an attempt to encourage decreasing screen time and engaging in more conversation among students.
I, along with what I believe to be many other students, truly appreciate the baskets. They have thus far succeeded in encouraging us to put down our phones, to counter our 21st-century dependence on technology for communication, relaxation, excitement and entertainment – even if for only a little while. And yet, I am confused, because despite the school’s laudable and apparently appreciated attempts to incentivize more limited technology use, Andover seems to continue to integrate technology into the curriculum, pushing it further into our classrooms, often in spite of students’ and faculty members’ expressed preferences and concerns.
As The Phillipian Editorial Board CXXXVII pointed out in an April 11, 2014 Editorial “Back to the Basics,” it is not clear that technology is always an effective tool in the classroom – often, it is more trouble than it’s worth. Technology can waste valuable class time if the programs being used are unfamiliar. It can result in more distance between students, their peers and their teachers. Creating courses that rely heavily on iPads or web-based assignments alienates those students who do not learn best with the aid of technology. Bringing high-tech, expensive electronic equipment and programs into classrooms does not necessarily equate with a high-quality education.
Therefore, I think the idea of baskets in Paresky is convenient yet non-intrusive and is a program that the school can – and should – expand on. For example, cluster munches and dorm meetings could be device-free spaces. The Student Activities Board and other campus organizations could hold device-free events in the evening and on weekends that encourage participants to interact with each other.
As Andover and its students advance further into the 21st century, we need to ensure that our connections and relationships are not left behind. So let’s take a break from “friending” each other and actually spend some time making friends. Technology should be a part of our lives, but it should not be the glue holding everything together.
Emily Ndiokho is a Junior from Allen, TX.