The Techonology Curve

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I, like many others in my generation, have grown up hand in hand with technology.

In kindergarten, I was playing computer games at home. They varied from educational (the Oregon Trail) to the not-so-educational (Detective Barbie).

Second grade brought computer lab classes at school. Here, we practiced typing, multiplying and history with engaging computer games. My grandpa believed in the importance of typing so much that he had me practice every day when I got home from school. I became my biggest competitor, constantly striving to beat my previous wpm, or words per minute.

By fifth grade, I was so interested in computers that I joined the STLP, student technology leadership program, to further my knowledge.

Transition to sixth grade, where most homework assignments were required to be typed. Computer classes were mandatory all three years. Microsoft Office programs were taught until we excelled (pun intended). Computers became synonymous with schoolwork, and that connection continued through high school and into college.

College has integrated communication technologies like no other. Blackboard is the home base for all course information, including the syllabi, grades, assignments, and even the roster. I check my e-mail countless times a day, receiving updates from my professors, the university, and other students. Almost every semester I’ve had a class that requires additional online coursework, such as Spanish and CIS. Needless to say, my laptop and all its amenities are at the center of my college career.

On the positive side, I think this plethora of technology I am immersed in has made me a quicker thinker. With everything at my fingertips, I am able to outsource my knowledge and access it whenever I need it. Not that I actually have more or less knowledge because of technology, but I have access to infinitely more knowledge now that I know where to find it.

On the flip side, I feel that the communication technologies distract me from my learning. Whether I’m taking notes on my computer in class or typing up a paper in my room, you can be sure there are at least three tabs open in my browser that I’m constantly switching between. It’s virtually impossible to focus on one task when you have the opportunity to work on three.

Technology also provides temptations for cheating, or at least taking shortcuts to thinking for ourselves. Don’t know about something? Google it. Don’t want to read a book? Sparknotes will tell you about it. Don’t want to think of the answer to online quiz questions? Check out Quizlet. You can find just about anything on the Internet, allowing for lots of shallow work. And even if you decide to do the honest work assigned, you could possibly get a worse grade than someone who didn’t do it themselves. School is designed around good grades, which, unfortunately, often leads students to the Internet.

I think education technology is on the right track with e-books. Some people who never read before, love reading on their Kindle or Nook. I, on the other hand, despise staring at a screen for hours, whereas I could read paper pages forever. The claim that they’re so much cheaper bugs me as well, because it doesn’t hold a lot of truth. I’ve looked at prices for my textbooks that are available electronically and they are not much cheaper than renting or buying a used book. I would rather pay $10 extra for a hard copy of my book.

Also, as mentioned in the article, making notes and searching for specific parts in an e-book is not easy. They are not ideal for hardcore studying. E-books do have features where you can make notes and search for words, but it is not nearly as simple as doing it with an actual book.

As for the MOOCs, or massive open online courses, I don’t see them uprooting universities any time soon. I think colleges will start to use them as tools for their courses, but the university system is too integral to our society right now. That would create major unemployment options. Eliminating the traditional university would also widen the digital divide, eliminating the idea of college for those without computer and internet access.

Monitoring the MOOCs would be difficult. Piracy would be prevalent, so the providers would not be receiving their rightful money. Grading would be difficult and not always accurate. Like I stated earlier, the Internet is home to many easy answers, so the quality of learning would not be as great as the quality in the classroom.

Overall, I think technology is a great asset to education, but it should not be the main form of education.

Everything in moderation.

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