By Ed Kollmeyer

Introduction: In this blog post, Cerro Coso ASL Instructor Ed Kollmeyer shares some observations of his students’ habits that alarmed him, and led him to advise his students to change their habits, and his own. 

Did I catch your attention?  I am not talking about Driving School – I am talking about students who are driving while learning in your course.  Sometimes I can see from my students’ background that they are in their vehicle during my class.  I have seen videos on Facebook, YouTube, and other social media platforms, that many people are chatting while driving, and I worry for the innocent people that could be injured or even killed by distracted drivers.  I always let my students know that they should not watch videos while they are driving.  Please when you notice a student who is driving while you are instructing, tell them to find a place to park their vehicle until the class meeting has ended.

Do you doubt that this happens?  I have personally seen a pedestrian trip over a crack on the sidewalk while texting, and injure his nose.  I have seen a boy playing basketball while on his smartphone.  You may have heard about a train engineer who operated a Metro train in Los Angeles and caused an accident while texting few years ago.  Another story involved a distracted airline pilot.  I have learned that they often have video cameras on such drivers, engineers, and pilots to make sure that they stay focused, yet this seems insufficient to prevent such situations.  I cannot believe how addicted people are to their devices.  When I got a smartphone two years ago, I decided to put it in my trunk while I was driving.  Friends tried to text me.  I instructed them to be patient.  Later, my smartphone cracked when I sat on it, and then I quit using it.  I felt such freedom from my addiction.

I personally do not use telephone or voicemail because I am deaf.  I use e-mail to text from my laptop computer, and I now use televideo from my laptop – which is similar to a videophone.  The telephone or wireless companies charge for voice unless you want to add data to billing.  I wanted data only but they do not offer it separately, so I decided Wi-Fi was best.  I have to find Wi-Fi locations to use while I am traveling, which I do not mind, until I find company that offers a data only device to plug into my computer (If anyone has had experience with this, please let me know).   

Thank you for reading.  Please be safe and be sane.

Conclusion: Despite the busy lives of our students, we as educators have an obligation to encourage good study habits, and discourage potentially harmful ones.  We can add a short message to our syllabus and course Canvas pages, and a gentle reminder in weekly announcements.  We can also ensure that we offer students flexibility in our course requirements and our own policies, so that those who feel faced with the dilemma of missing class or attending live sessions where their focus is divided and their safety and that of others are at risk do feel pressure to make such choices.  As much as technology provides access options that were once simply not possible, we can create the conditions for students that ensure that more flexible access options are also safe options. 

Edward Kollmeyer has been an adjunct professor at Cerro Coso Community College since Fall 2014, where he has taught American Sign Language at the Lake Isabella and Ridgecrest campuses.  He is a Certified Deaf Interpreter with federal immigration court system, and a pastor, an evangelist, and a missionary.  He has been to Brazil, Canada, Grenada, Guyana, Mexico, Saint Lucia, and Trinidad, and has learned and taught sign language from each country – which is why Federal Judges used him to interpret, because most interpreters who use American Sign Language and cannot translate foreign sign languages.