Friday, October 15, 2010

Where We Are Is All In The Perception: The Identity of Mobility

“someone talk to me!!!! i can't handle this class any longer :(....booooooo)
Thursday [10/14/2010] at 2:08pm.”

This mobile transmission from Blackberry to Face Book was from my high school valedictorian-college honors- last year nursing student-daughter sitting in a lecture-based class. The first respondent was a high school friend, 1000 miles away. My daughter, according to Gitte Stald in the article “Mobile Identity: Youth, Identity, and Mobile Communication Media,” realized the liberation “from the constraints of physical proximity and spatial immobility” (p. 147). Like most adolescents and young adults, her mobile device did not get completely turned off as she survived her experienced boredom by allowing texting to take her somewhere other than her immediate physical space.

It is exactly this aspect of mobile reality that, as a high school classroom teacher, I cannot appreciate. For, not only is the student disengaged with the learning process taking place in a physically "real spatial existence," the student is attacking my self-perception as I am acknowledged as irrelevant. The reality of the face-to-face relationship is completely denied as the student perceives herself “to be in another space than the physical space, [and] the mediated situation is experienced as real” (Stald, p. 154). I cease to exist.

Before cell phones, there were daydreams that took one to a state of another existence. It was a private reality, shared only with the self. These daydreams transpired as self-reflections or “Walter Mitty” transformations. There was an essence of a thought process (though disengaged from the reality at hand). A teacher, or other face-to-face individual, could interrupt the daydream and once again become a part of a shared reality that was both spatial and conscious. This is not possible with technological mobility that actually engages others outside of spatial existence to unite in the new essence of place. Or is it?

Future of Identity in the Information Society (FIDIS) may have found a possible solution to this mobile “absence presence” (Staid,p.156).

Think of the possibilities placed from a podium or desk. The invasive possibilities…….oh, sorry, I was daydreaming.

Once the mobile device is under the (dare I say it?) control of the teacher, there are applications that I find exciting. Students are forever taking pictures on their phone. Now, a free service,
Yodio,, allows the addition of voice to the photos that could lead to the creation of meaningful, sequenced, storyboards. These storyboards can be created from a relatively inexpensive (as compared to a laptop) cell phone. The mobility of the technology allows the transport of the creation to other technical devices. Students can create and send projects directly to teacher or to a class web page. The “communicative function” (Staid,p.143) becomes a lesson integrating literacy, creativity, and technology. My self-perception has been restored.


  1. Jill,
    I find this facinating. You touched on so many interesting points I don't know where to begin. I really can connect to the daydreaming analogy. There really is a difference in brain function when one is distracted by a daydream and when one is distracted by a cell phone device. It is equally interesting that technologies that begin as popular entertainment evolve into "must have" necessities. Where is the self-control? So I really appreciated the video bringing to light the great need for understanding technology beyond the super-wow,George Jetson, entertainment factor.

  2. Jill,
    I really enjoyed your post!!

    I am not sure that I find more invasion necessarily the answer. I am not too comfortable, as a teacher, intersecting my students' mobile phones... mainly because I would not want my own phone susceptible to such software. I think your post was incredible, because it allowed me to really see the pervasiveness of how mobile devices DO become somewhat of a "data-double," even for us adults... The idea of FIDIS somewhat made me queasy. I don't find the "control" of the teacher necessarily positive all of the time, anyway. Shouldn't it be learner-centered? Now, I do say this with a resounding caveat -- I am NOT a high school teacher. I can't imagine the profound distraction you are subject to.

    I know that as a grad student I wouldn't want my professor engaging with my cell phone in this manner, regardless of whether I was daydreaming, texting, or not. For instance, my phone is a link to my children and husband in case of emergency. I should be focused enough and appreciate the class discussion/ objectives to relegate my focus. However, if my cell phone is used as a tool, as you suggested, based on the Yodio example, then I do see extreme benefits of engaging the students: "integrating literacy, creativity, and technology" as you write.
    The difference between the two examples you included is the choice involved from the perspective of the mobile phone user.

  3. Gwen,
    I have dinosaurs in my school. I have to keep an open mind at all times. The educational system determines the policy (standards and rules). I have wiggle room and have to figure out how to use it. Isn't that how change comes about?

    Sometimes I close my eyes and remember 20 years ago. Sometimes I close my eyes and imagine 20 years in the future. How I integrate the two is how I forever grapple.