By Mitch Cohen
As technology has become more advanced, its usage has significantly increased. From smartphones that allow people to surf the web to video games with life-like graphics, technology has become more commonplace in today’s society.
In academic settings, several pieces of technology have been implemented to make learning and teaching much easier. While technology such as computers allows for a more engaging learning environment, factors such as easily distracted students and needing devices to save work make me ambivalent about how technology is implemented in the classroom.
Ever since I started grade school, technology has played a significant role in my academic career. During my time in kindergarten, I remember going to the computer lab to learn how to use a desktop computer. In grade school, I was amazed by how versatile computers were, as they allowed students to do schoolwork and play and watch educational games and videos. Since my family had a PC, we had access to programs including Microsoft Word and Microsoft PowerPoint. These two programs were incredibly useful for working on papers and presentations, which were the majority of assignments I worked on during my early academic career.
Unfortunately, the biggest problem I had with using computers as a kid was that they required flash drives to save data. Nowadays, saving work is easier due to the Google Suite saving work automatically.
One person who enjoys using the Google Suite to work on assignments is Alexa Amato, a senior history major and Future Teachers Association president. Since Google Suite programs can be purchased on an iPhone, it allows Amato to work on assignments when not using her Macbook. “If I need to do something quickly on my phone,” she said, “I can check my drive in order to add something to a PowerPoint.”
In contrast, Microsoft Office requires each project to be manually saved with a flash drive, which could be difficult if the device got lost. But despite this easier ability to save data, using academic software has pros and cons of its own.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, both students and professors flocked to a program called Zoom. The purpose was to continue instruction asynchronously to prevent the spread of Covid. One of the strongest aspects about Zoom was how it allowed students to attend classes in any environment.
Merin Michael, a senior mathematics major and the vice president of the Future Teachers Association, enjoyed using Zoom because it allowed her to take calls anywhere. “During the pandemic, I wasn’t always at home,” Michael said. “If I was at my family’s house, I would still be able to go to class no matter where I was.”
From my perspective, I felt ambivalent about using Zoom because while it allowed classes to continue virtually, my biggest issue with the platform was how easy it was to become distracted. Since Zoom classes took place at home, I had a difficult time paying attention in a room where my phone and Playstation were within arm’s reach. To solve this issue, I put my phone in another room to have an easier time concentrating on class.
With both asynchronous and in-person instruction, laptops are both reliable and problematic. As for their reliability, they allow students to accomplish tasks in any location. For example, if I’m hungry while studying, I can bring my laptop to the University Center and grab a snack. They also give students another option for note-taking. While I use paper and pencil for taking notes, other students prefer using a laptop.
“I can take notes [on my laptop]. It’s much faster than handwriting my notes,” said Michael. Combine this with the automatic saving of Google Suite, and it allows students to not have to worry about misplacing assignments.
While laptops can be a very useful tool, my biggest issue with them is how distracting they can be during class time. From my experience, I have been in classes where someone is distracted by their laptop, leading the professor to stop the lesson to tell the student to pay attention.
“[The responsibility falls] a lot more on the teacher to make sure everyone is actually doing the work that they’re assigned and not playing games,” Amato stated.
Ultimately, while I enjoy using my laptop for working on assignments, I prefer using paper and pencil for note taking because I have an easier time concentrating when writing physical notes.
From an educator's perspective, there are several pros and cons when it comes to incorporating technology into an academic setting. For example, technology allows educators to create interactive lessons. “They can incorporate different fun learning platforms such as Kahoot to get students more engaged with the lesson,” said Amato.
During my high school years, my teachers used Kahoot to help me and my classmates to prepare for exams. What made the program fun was how students could create their own nicknames during review sessions, which increased engagement with the platform. Similar to Amato, Michael also believes that classroom technology increases engagement. “As far as pros go, I think it makes the learning process a lot more engaging and it provides students with a more interactive experience,” she said.
Unfortunately, the idea of edutainment can lead students to become easily distracted as well. “There is [an] added stressor of ensuring that each student stays on task when they are trusted with technology,” Amato added.
On top of getting distracted, another con of classroom technology is that some students don’t have access to certain resources, which could cause them to fall behind in both their homework and classwork. “If [a student didn’t have access to technology], it could make [them] feel excluded or embarrassed,” said Michael.
To prevent exclusion, some schools are giving students technology to use. Currently, Michael is observing at a high school where each student receives their own iPad for the school year. “It’s great because all students have equal access to success in regards to being able to possess technological resources,” she added.
Classroom technologies have always been a double-edged sword for me, as a helpful educational tool that can also cause me to get distracted. Regardless, it seems that classroom technology is here to stay, as it has made learning and teaching much easier.