Adapt or Perish

Cautionary tales of technology engulfing the education system.

Intro by Richard Mejia

The furious keystrokes on a laptop of while on deadline is the universal rhythm of all college students. Once the project is complete, a quick submission through email or through a designated school portal completes the process. This is a snapshot that resonates with any college student and illustrates the necessity of technology in today’s educational system. Whether it be watching a tutorial video on YouTube to help with an assignment or sitting in a class covered with television screens, technology’s influence on any school is undeniable.

For all the advantages that the advancement of technology has supplied us with, when do we begin the question when we’ve had our fill? Should we even have the audacity to pose such a question? We should embrace all technological advances — however we shouldn’t align to become completely reliant on it.

In speaking to a few experts, as well as detailing personal experiences — we at the Union Weekly have narrowed down what it is about technology in classrooms should be embraced and what forms of it our holding students back. Students should certainly adapt to changes in technology, but we should all be weary of our intellectual abilities perishing in the process.

By Abraham Alapisco

College campuses are pictured as quaint places where students lie in luscious courtyards, libraries are brimming with books, and knowledge is nurtured like a bee sting caused by rolling over said bee in the damn courtyard. The image of college as a separate bubble from the rest of world is not the case due to the amount of technology we surround ourselves with at all times. Unless a squirrel is trying to steal your food, it seems that technology preoccupies our time. As we switch around apps, text our roommates to not leave food in the oven again, and fumble with ringtone settings, we bring our obligations outside of the classroom with us. Faculty and students may use technology in different ways, but ideally it enhances the education experience. However, technology’s benefits are equated with how well it is understood and used in a beneficial manner, which is why it’s important to hear different experiences and attitudes towards technology on campus.

The classroom is no longer just pen and paper. Many students carry a variety of gadgets that possess multiple functions — note taking, electronic textbooks, and planners. For faculty such as Dr. Alejandra Priede, a doctoral program instructor, technology in the classroom is the status quo, but it can be a double-edge sword.

“Most of them bring their computers to class,” said Priede. “I personally don’t love it because I know they get distracted, but at the same time it is a great way of taking notes and having different sources of information open at the same, which facilitates the discussions that we *have.”

However, you don’t have to step inside a classroom to see a large technological presence. Just walking around campus, many people are intertwined with the technology they carry.

Melissa Mahoney, a graduate student in the Master of Counseling program, notices the disconnect technology seems to cause.

“Cell phones or people listening to music on their headphones, that completely closes you off from any other human interaction,” said Mahoney. “Specifically with cell phones, people are looking down instead of looking where they are going.”

Being engulfed with tech can range from being inconsiderate to dangerous when accidents occur as a result of spatial awareness being limited due to such activity. When we are accommodating to others and don’t prioritize a text over the person walking near our vicinity, we are consciously choosing to be in the moment according to Mahoney — who believes that a lot of the inconveniences and troubles caused by such behavior can be avoided by being a little more thoughtful of immediate surroundings.

Granted, before the cell phone, people still had their distractions in the form of newspapers and crossword puzzles they carried around during a commute. However, Dr. Priede views the way people interact with technology today is different than the way people behave when they are immersed in a book or newspaper on the bus, going on to say the differences between older and newer forms of media change how we behave as a result.

Reading a single type of material in front of you has purpose. With a newspaper or book, there is a single intent — read the material in front of you. With a phone, we are not always aware how much we are switching between different apps, which results in a less cohesive, immersive experience according to Dr. Priede, saying it’s a likely a result of the amount of choice we have on a phone.

The question is whether or not the amount of choice and personalization technology offers us is always a good thing. Barry Schwartz argues in his book, The Paradox of Choice, that having many options can surprisingly be unfulfilling.

“When faced with overwhelming choice, we are forced to become “pickers,” which is to say, relatively passive selectors from whatever is available. Being a chooser is better, but to have the time to choose more and pick less, we must be willing to rely on habits, customs, norms, and rules to make some decisions automatic,” said Schwartz.

Since technology is ever changing and adapting to our needs, it accompanies the paths of those who see how important it is in certain industries such as Ashley Schwarz, a Film Major, who views technology in her field as a huge part of what makes movies magical.

“Technology is constantly changing the film industry and it’s exciting to see how it will continue to evolve.”

By Lauren Hunter

With the way our world is progressing, technology will eventually take over the dynamics of a classroom. At CSULB they have already designed what are known as ‘smart classrooms’ and in other departments they have been utilizing technology in the classroom. For the Liberal Arts department, English in particular, technology is good and bad.

As an English Literature major I read a lot. Sometimes there is too much to read, but I have to buy actual books and not only that I am constantly reading articles and other papers from critics. I have a stack of printed out articles from this past semester that is two inches thick. Obviously it would be nice to have the option to use a laptop or some tablet to read these on.

To dive deeper into the discussion I asked Dr. Lloyd Kermode, professor of Renaissance and Early Modern British Literature; Literary and Cultural Theory, his opinions regarding technology in the classroom. Kermode made the distinction that technology in classrooms differs between different classes, teachers and majors.

“I’m not anti-technology; I’m pro-education. Sometimes A/V and interactive technological tools can be very useful, especially when talking about material history (history of printing, science, geography, etc.), but in literary studies, it is more often the case that close reading and face-to-face discussion between human beings looking at each other rather than at a screen yields broader and, more importantly, deeper discoveries about the text being studied,” Kermode explained.

Just because the world is transitioning into being more and more paperless does not mean schools should use their funding to go more towards technology and creating ‘smart classrooms’.

“More and more funding and administrative effort is being channeled into the “smart” classroom without thinking about whether that technology helps us become smarter or whether “smart” machines encourage passive human learners,” said Kermode.

Another aspect to this debate is pricing on e-books versus actual books. Many students will argue that they prefer to spend less money and just use their tablets instead of buying a real book.

However, Kermode hears the students’ arguments, but has his own opinions. “When I assign cheap ($5-$6) Shakespeare editions for a class and see students still renting them rather than buying them, I am less inclined to listen to complaints about the cost of physical books.”

It is understandable that different majors have different types of textbooks. I know that in the sciences textbooks can be near $200–300. But strictly speaking with English it is simple to get extremely cheap books.

There will always be different sides to this argument. As students and humans who constantly seek out knowledge, will see interesting trends regarding school and technology. “There is something special and different about the university classroom, and that difference is depleted by switching in a few seconds from an email argument with a friend to a Facebook post about last night’s dinner to a funny cat video and then to a Shakespeare scene that you have to stop and think hard about,” Kermode said.

There needs to be a balance. It is also not the school’s sole responsibility to inform the students of that balance. Students will need to take responsibility for this as well and know when they can or cannot cross a line. Kermode is correct in saying that the university classroom is a special place. The battle between technology and no technology in those special classrooms will be a continual on-going debate. Technology is great and necessary in today’s world, but there is something to be said about real books and real human to human contact that technology will never be able to replace.

Originally published at Found in Volume 78.13 from April 18, 2016.

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