Yeah. Schools Really Need To Ban Cell Phones
In an article from the Sydney Morning Herald (which I found via, of all places, Techcrunch), "half of Japan's top-10 selling works of fiction in the first six months of the year were composed ... on the tiny handset of a mobile phone."
Yes, you read that correctly. Novels written on cell phones.
As noted in the article, the cell phone tales often lack complex scene and character development.
Toru Ishikawa, a professor of Japanese literature at Tokyo's Keio University, points out that Japanese mobile phones allow their owners only a limited selection of kanji, the Chinese characters regarded by Japanese as more intellectually demanding than their native syllabary. "The size of the screen also necessitates that [authors] use short, simple sentences with basic words. If that's how you measure the quality of literature, then yes, the prevalence of writing like this will water down Japanese literature.
"But it could also encourage writers to be inventive with language in new ways. Language must always evolve."
However, with that said, I could teach a great unit on character and scene -- and their role in creating tension and theme -- by comparing texts that rely on character and theme with texts that eschew character and theme and rely on other elements of story.
But more importantly, this is yet another reason why folks who advocate that cell phones should be banned in schools just don't get it. People are using cell phones to create and share information. That is not going to stop because of an administrator who thinks that the kids these days are being distracted by all the newfangled gadgets. Cell phones are a part of the landscape, and we can either educate ourselves about them, and subsequently use them effectively, or miss an opportunity and slip incrementally further into irrelevance.