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Are students too dependent on technology?

No, using technology in school prepares students for the work force

By Zehra Tajouri, October 16 2014 —

Modern technology is great. It’s fast, efficient and convenient. But our use of this valuable tool is constantly criticized.

Pens and pencils were once the best we had in technology. Now we have smartphones and laptops. Our educational system needs to adapt. People say that our generation is too dependent on current technology. But constantly using new technology in school prepares us for the workforce and the real world.

It can be fun to read a novel under a blanket late at night. But when I’m on the train I can read my favourite novel on a Kindle without having to carry a 700-page book in my backpack.

I look forward to the day when all of our textbooks are e-books, you can use a calculator on every math test and when overly nostalgic 70’s-loving students forego their holier-than-thou attitude and succumb to the inevitable future.

Being dependent on technology isn’t a bad thing. Modern technology is like other tools — we can use it to make our lives easier. If you’re in pain, you can suffer through it or you could pound back a Tylenol and get it over with. Maybe Darwin is rolling in his grave about survival of the fittest, but the rest of us have accepted the inevitable prevalence of technologies like medicine in our lives.

Our generation, mostly students, seem to get a lot of flack for using technology to do everyday tasks. We like to use Google instead of research in the library, we get our news from Twitter and we use calculators for math instead of a pen and paper. People who criticize how much students use technology usually don’t realize how quickly students can learn and how much more information we can absorb.

You can go to the library and dig through years of medical journals to find out what the odd coloured bruise on your arm is or you can go on Google and get the answer in less than a second.

The use of technology in school is on the low side. It should be encouraged and not hindered. A more technologically-dependent world is where our future is headed. Universities should be giving us open-book tests where we use Google but only have 20 minutes to complete the test.

We should be learning to read and sift through information to find the answer that makes the most sense. We should be taking complex ideas and quickly breaking them down and explaining them to others.

These are the types of skills we need to learn. Instead, professors want us to buy thick textbooks and retain abstract information in our heads just long enough to pass a class — only to have most of the information wiped from our memories forever.

Why are we choosing to ignore the fact that we have the world’s wisdom in the palm of our hands? We’re ignoring the tools and resources constantly at our disposal to keep up with the outdated belief that storing millions of useless facts in your head is a sign of intelligence.

When you’re in the work force, your boss isn’t going to care that you used Google to find out the answer to something. You’ll need to be able to do your job and do it well.

This is a cool time to be alive. We have the power to reduce waste by taking notes on our laptops and reading our textbooks online. Don’t let people shame you into believing that technological dependence is a bad thing.

Technology helps spread wisdom. It allows us to spread information quickly and with ease. I’m sure even professors will go on Google to look up a topic they haven’t read about in years.

Smartphones and laptops aren’t scary and they aren’t ruining our education system. You are learning the same information. You’re just wasting less time, energy and paper.


Yes, technology is distracting and wastes time in the classroom

By Ashley Gray, October 16 2014 —

Students and faculty use technology every day. We submit our assignments through online course portals like Desire2Learn (D2L). Professors accompany their lectures with PowerPoint slides. People use phones, tablets, laptops and other computers during class.

This reliance to technology borders on addiction. It also causes a catalogue of problems that slow down our days much more than if we’d just resigned ourselves to pen and paper in the first place. Most professors show PowerPoint presentations, so the lights in rooms need to be messed with. But every lecture hall is set up differently. Projector screens won’t go up or won’t go down. Links won’t work.

PowerPoint presentations won’t start. IT is called. They may or may not show up before the end of class. Lights will glare on the screen while the rest of the room is too dark to take notes.

All of these problems are a waste of class time. But every professor knows how to use a chalkboard to scribble up a couple of notes. If we just resigned ourselves to reading equations scrawled on a whiteboard, you wouldn’t have to spend five minutes of your introductory calculus class listening to your professor chat with IT.

Classrooms might be a source of problems, but they won’t be the end of your technological difficulties. Unless you’re the type of keener who sits in the front row of a lecture theatre, there’s a good chance that somebody in front of you has a laptop open or a phone on their lap, distracting you and the entire lecture theatre.

Technology is always within arm’s reach. Why listen to a lecture on the politics of Latin America when you could be perusing Reddit on your tablet?

These students scroll through Facebook as if their laptop is an extension of their arm. Unfortunately, they’re hurting more than their own education. It’s difficult to concentrate on lecture when the person four rows in front of you is constantly scrolling through Twitter. Even if you aren’t constantly using technology, other people’s addictions are distracting. Our misuse of technology has become such a problem that many professors ban laptops and cellphones.

Going technology-free isn’t a bad idea. Many classrooms don’t have plug-ins, which leaves students with a dead laptop and 50 minutes of staring idly at the ceiling instead of learning. Your computer could decide that midway through French class is a great time for a software update. Technology fails. Students should always have pen and paper in their backpacks. But it’s amazing how many students rely completely on the latest technology, without any thought about what will happen when those systems inevitably fail.

University of Calgary’s new system, D2L, also causes problems. On top of the university Wi-Fi’s unreliable connection, watching your professors try to learn how to use D2L is frustrating. Students drop assignments in the wrong folder. Posts are made that cannot be read by anyone aside from the person who posted them. Professors have to reformat their pages. It’s a virtual nightmare.

Some of these issues with D2L might be part of a learning curve. But the professor simply handing out the assignment they want done or telling everyone the title of the book they need to read doesn’t come with a new set of rules to learn.

We use technology every day in our university careers, but it’s not really helping us. We pretend that it’s just the way things have to be done, but the alternate solutions are obvious.

You’ll be able to find me in the eighth row of a lecture theatre, taking notes in an actual notebook. I might not be able to keep up with the latest celebrity gossip when I’m in class, but at least I can guarantee exactly where my work will be when I go looking for it.

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