In what can be considered a sign of the times, Utah Valley University in Orem has created a “texting lane” on a stairway in its Student Life & Wellness Center.
The university’s marketing and communications department came up with the idea when tasked with accentuating the center’s design with art and graphics. The facility, which opened last spring, has become a popular place for the institution’s 31,000 students.
While admittedly done as a lighthearted attempt at humor and a way to better connect with students, it does reflect on the strong connection students have to technology—and how education institutions must adapt to ensure technology is incorporated into all aspects of the learning environment.
Technology and how it is used is evolving at breakneck speed, and the drivers of change most often are today’s young people. Education administrators and facility planners must recognize this evolution and not only incorporate technology into lesson plans, but also into how facilities are designed and planned to more effectively engage users.
Utah Valley’s whimsical traffic-control approach for its tech-connected students is not meant to be taken seriously, but rather as an acknowledgement that technology is an important accoutrement that must be recognized, accepted and embraced.
In this vein, why stop with just a texting lane on a stairway? Why not take things a bit further? How about adding thumb-workout stations next to the free weights in the gymnasium? Maybe avatar-friendly testing areas? And it’s a no-brainer to add the texting-lane concept to walking paths, sidewalks, hallways and cafeteria/dining areas (but hopefully not on bike paths or roads).
But seriously, technology’s impact on today’s students must be understood and incorporated into all aspects of schools and universities. Only then will we be assured that we are providing learning environments that will allow students to access and utilize all the tools available to them, and to ensure they continue to be engaged learners.