Is this rude?


Photo by Jason Wun

I’m not talking about what I do with it. Just the device itself.

Is it rude?

I realize that people can use it in rude ways, but does that make the thing itself rude?

I ask this question because after sharing my experience that my previous post describes with some colleagues, the reaction I got was something like “Oh, well … I mean, that’s unfortunate, but it was a cell phone.”

And when I ask, “So if it had been a lap top, or my iPad, or a piece of paper, would it have been rude?” the response is “No, I don’t think that would be considered rude.”

So what is it about the cell phone that immediately makes some people automatically attach labels like “rude” “unprofessional” and “off-task”?

I think this is a case of residual anachronistic perceptions about what cell phones are used for, and at the risk of sounding ageist, I think it’s (sometimes) generational. I’m not sure when the last time was I actually used my iPhone as a phone–actually yes I do. I used it to do a Facetime call with my friend who lives in Alberta. The rest of the time I use my phone to text, send email, blog, enter information into my calendar, listen to music, search the web, and jot down ideas.

I suspect that those colleagues who winced when I said “cell phone” are the same people who, if they own a cell phone, only use it as a phone, and therefore have a hard time understanding how it can be used for learning purposes. And this is not an ageist thing, now that I think about it because I have a colleague who is younger than I am and she also winces a bit when I talk about cell phones in the classroom.

My friend Royan ominously commented on my previous post that:

Seriously though, I think your little experience has touched on a growing divide in our systems. I think there’s something of a quiet civil war occurring.

A quiet civil war? Yikes! I’d hate to think that’s really happening. Don’t we have more important things to worry about than the devices students (or teachers) use for learning? Shouldn’t we be worried about the learning itself?

6 thoughts on “Is this rude?

  1. “Life was so much better before sliced bread.”

    There will always be ludites. As with most things new and unknown, it’s easier to put down and and criticize rather than take the time to truly understand. The use of this or any type of technology might be considered divisive but things will eventually run the course.

    Remember when even the thought of a computer used to create an academic document was unthinkable?

    Stay the course – history will prove you correct.

  2. Upon proofreading, maybe that should be luddite? Neither look right…

    Let’s work on something more meaningful like APA….

  3. Thanks Doug! That made me smile. I’m still not sure about “Luddite” though.

  4. “I’m not sure when the last time was I actually used my iPhone as a phone”


    I’m getting beaten to death by Rogers on cell phone costs. I could get an ipad, get only a data plan for it and pay 1/3 per month what I am now… and it could be a phone when I (very occasionally) need it to be:

    I HATE using a phone as a phone, even texting becomes pretty redundant if I’m twittering and online in every other way.

    In fact, the only time I use a the smart phone as a phone is with old people (relatives). I fear I’m paying about $10 per phone call, that’s how little I use the phone as a phone. I PREFER online access. It’s less invasive and more pervasive, all at the same time.

    I suspect that might be at the bottom of the quiet civil war going on. Luddites like the invasive, controlling nature of talking at people, it empowers them. The digital backtalk de-emphasizes them and makes them angry. Phones are a common symbol of this.

  5. Hi Danika,

    Thank you for these last two posts.

    You have highlighted some serious cultural issues that smack us all in the face.

    The previous post speaks about our ability to so easily humiliate and disengage learners – either as a result of our egos or our lack of understanding and synchronicity with the media of the day.

    You have also served to help us all continue to think about the complexity of these issues – to take the ‘tool’ out of it and to focus on the behaviours/intentions.

    We know as new ‘tools’/'media’ appear in society, that the ‘hammer effect’ comes into play. So as we adopt new media use we often ‘misuse’ them. This is natural.

    Indeed there are many times when the distractibility and ‘off-taskness’ may be rude. We see this all around us. I think that will settle as we develop new societal norms that accommodate the complexity of which we are speaking.

    And, as you have so eloquently stated, we should worry, not about the devices, but about the learning itself.

    It is not a simple matter and I do believe the angst is a natural phase of the wide adoption of new media or technologies into our societies.

    By the way, I was the ONLY one making notes on my iphone (or any device!) yesterday (Evernote) during a leadership meeting in my organization. I publicly stood and explained to the 80 people what I was doing – cuz ‘Blackberry’ use is banned during meetings. (They mean to ban the off-task use – but ban the device. So old-school – and so common.) I boldly took the opportunity to educate before I was told off. You weren’t so lucky. -(

    thx you

  6. They’re talking about this on this morning.

    The against texting person kept saying “pickup the phone” like it was an onerous thing that lazy people couldn’t do. Phone call=true effort on the part of the relationship, texting or social media=lazy cop out.

    And Peter? At our next PD, instead of having everyone hate on us for looking distracted on computers, I’m going to testify! That might also convince others that digital tools can be used productively.