Technology allows for connection and distraction

Avoiding technology in this day and age is nearly impossible. With everything evolving around the use of technology, including school announcements, teacher assignments, grading and even exams, how can students not be bound to their phones and laptops?

According to freshman Kyle Labak, “We’ve been born into it, it has become such an integral part of our lives.” Technology has integrated itself into not only our personal lives with family but also our social, academic and professional lives.  It is how I’ve been able to keep in touch with my family on the other side of the country.”

Freshman Kevin Buckhalton agreed that technology is a fundamental part of staying in touch during college. Said Buckhalton, “My life would be so sad [without technology]. It is how I keep in touch with my friends at home.”

Even though technology has become such a big factor in our lives and is useful in many ways, there are still times when technology can interfere with other aspects of life. In many of my classes, the professors stated in the very first class not to use cell phones, laptops or tablets. I always thought, “But this is college, aren’t we suppose to use our laptops?”

Yet research suggests that laptops can be a major inhibition to learning. One study conducted by Carrie Fried at Winona State University (2006) examined whether laptops during lecture were in fact helping or harming students. Fried found that, contrary to some students’ assertion that laptops can enhance learning, they are actually “negatively related to several measures of student learning, including self-reported understanding of course material and overall course performance.”

Having your laptop with you in class could be extremely helpful. Having the internet at your fingertips to look up information quickly should enhance your academic experience. However, more often than not this privilege is abused, and students find themselves browsing Facebook instead of listening to their professor.

Many instructors include in their syllabus rules that ban electronic devices for this reason.   Still, some have come up with even more creative ways of deterring students from using devices. Freshman Labek added, “In my Chinese class, if my professor hears a phone ring we have to learn a song and dance in Chinese as a lesson.” Another professor, upon hearing a phone ring, will go up to the student and answer the call in front of the class.

But, of course, rules were made to be broken, according to some students. For example, in the middle of a recent debate in class, a student in my group started texting while I was trying to think of a rebuttal. Though the person was keeping it to themselves, the act itself pulled attention away from the debate at hand. While it may seem like you’re only disrespecting yourself when texting, it’s often noticeable to those around you, which makes it more problematic. This can be distracting not only to the professor attempting to lead a lesson or discussion but also to the students who are trying to pay attention.

Others had a differing opinion: Do what you want with your own tuition. “It’s their education they are paying for,” freshman Gillian Etherington said. Freshman Nick Kalkman added, “It doesn’t bother me, but they are wasting their money and education.”

Paying attention in class and making the most out of your education is not the only reason to set your phone aside and focus. School officials are also advising students to put their phones away and pay attention while crossing the streets. There have been several issues with cars not stopping at the crosswalks on College Avenue and texting while walking makes it even more dangerous.

Still, for many, partaking in technology is a compulsion.

Buckhalton admitted he can’t put his phone down for more than two minutes and Kalkman agreed, saying he can maybe put his laptop down for a couple of hours, but that’s it.

Not everyone finds the lure of their cell phone as strong though. Etherington remarked, “I don’t really need technology.” In addition, she also said she can go “forever without [her] phone, [she] rarely uses it.”

She may be one of the few people who can go without technology, but I am one who can’t go a day without checking my email or Facebook. In this day and age, if you choose not to check your email everyday, you are sure to miss important updates and people trying to get in touch with you. It has become a habit that is pervasive in our culture whether we like it or not. The issue of utilizing all of technology’s useful aspects while keeping it from being a distraction continues to trouble us.