Mike Houston isn’t kidding himself when it comes to kids, devices and social media.
He’s taught at Harding High School for years now. He sees it.
“When I first started teaching, I noticed kids coming with Game Boys, the Nintendo DS, so having a device in the classroom isn’t new," he said. "But as the mobile device has become more sophisticated, more apps and games, it has become more of a distraction."
Mike and Jana Shortal sat down to talk about the potential pilot program being attempted in a few high schools in Madison, Wisconsin.
Those schools are banning a few social media sites in school with the hopes that it gets students attention back in line, improves grades, and dissolves some behavioral problems.
But back to Mike.
His first approach at getting his student off their apps was a lot like what those Madison schools are doing.
“Yeah, in years past I ruled with an iron fist, no phones, but that hampered my connection with them," he said.
Mike found that all-out bans, or taking the devices away, put him further away from the world teens live in right now.
Like it or not.
He needed to find a way to speak their language and let them make a choice about who or what gets their attention.
“As a teacher I really try to engage so that they are not on their devices - I really try to connect what I am teaching to what they are familiar with,” Mike said.
And once he gets on their level, he goes one step further.
“I really try to preach responsible usage," he said. "I think it’s important that they get used to really having that balance of using the technology for benefit versus using that technology to be a distraction.”
Mike realizes he can't abolish social media from their lives, inside or outside of the classroom - so he makes it work.
And as a finalist for teacher of the year, clearly, for his kids -- it's working.