For years now, educators have been worried that the increasing proliferation of smartphones, and their use during class time, is distracting students from their schoolwork.
To address this, governments in Australia, France and Canada have implemented bans on the use of these digital devices during class. However, some students are getting around the ban by using an educational tool that is very popular among educators themselves: Google Docs.
An article recently published in The Atlantic revealed how US middle and high school students are exchanging notes through the program.
“We don’t really pass physical notes anymore,” said Skyler, 15, who, like all the other students in this story, is identified by a pseudonym.
The student interviewed by The Atlantic revealed how they use Google Docs to chat any time they need to put their phone away but know their friends will be on computers.
If the project isn’t a collaborative one, kids will just create a shared document where they’ll chat line by line in what looks like a paragraph of text.
“People will just make a new page and talk in different fonts, so you know who’s who,” Skyler told The Atlantic.
“I had one really good friend, and we were in different homerooms. So, we’d email each other a doc and would just chat about whatever was going on.”
When class is over, students simply delete a doc or resolve all the comments so that if a teacher approaches to take a closer look, the whole thread will disappear.
By using Google Docs to chat with each other, students aren’t just fooling teachers; they’re also fooling parents.
When the school day is done and students log in to Google Docs to do their homework, the chats initiated during class time can continue unabated, even though parents believe they’re working on a school project.
Skye, a 20-year-old from outside Boston, told The Atlantic that thinking about Google Docs chatting made her nostalgic.
“Chatting on Google Docs is very reminiscent of when we were younger,” she said. And paper notes? “I haven’t passed a physical note to someone since fifth grade,” she said.
This version of the original article has been edited for length.