Your Blackberry doesn't always keep you connected. Photo Illustration by Peter Caty/ The Mirror

Your Blackberry doesn't always keep you connected. Photo Illustration by Peter Caty/ The Mirror

This year I am teaching an Intermediate Spanish course sequence for First Year Students. I would say that the majority use their cellular phone or ‘Blackberry’ like another part of their body. Of course, there is nothing wrong with that. They are the ‘Generation @’ (or ‘Generation Y’). They grew up with the digital revolution (Internet, Cellular, Google, YouTube, Facebook, Blackberry, laptops, IPods, etc).

In fact, they say they cannot live without these items. If electricity disappears from the planet for 24 hours, they will panic. They seem to fear short-term loss of contact with people (virtual contact). I understand that too.

But for their professors, this dependence is new, different from even one year ago, especially the obsession with their Blackberry. They use it in classes while I am teaching even though I wrote in my syllabus that they lose points from their participation. Even so, they are so obsessed that they use it when I am looking at the other side of the room or when I write on the board. Even if I show part of a film or a documentary, they choose that moment to check something in their Blackberry.

Of course, what appears there could be infinitely more important than anything they will learn in class. (Or maybe they are searching for more information about the documentary? However, I do not think so). Out of 22 students in my current class, five have that obsession. At least it is not my complete class. Thank goodness!

The other day I happened to see another language professor teaching a class in Canisius Hall. That professor was writing something in the board and there were two students checking their Blackberry! Perhaps in our languages classes it is particularly troubling if our students are checking their ‘blackberry.’ We teach in another language and students must think and be immersed in the target language.

When they are checking that beautiful device, they ‘check out’ of class and lose contact (like NASA losing contact with a satellite in orbit). What if suddenly an alien from another planet starts talking to you when you check your Blackberry.’ ‘What did u say?, omg!’, the student would say (not the alien from another planet).

Some students are getting bad grades because they are disconnecting from class on an ongoing basis. In other words, the beautiful ‘Blackberry’ helps to connect us fast with the world, but it can also ‘totally disconnect’ you from an opportunity to learn more about another language, another culture and civilization. The end.

Editor’s Note: Javier Campos is a writer, and columnist for several Latin American newspapers, and professor of Modern Languages and Literatures at Fairfield University.

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