Not all classroom technology is equal

The reformation of American education usually comes with technological changes. Educational institutions search for ways to use technology to effectively improve teaching and learning. Although the efforts are well-intentioned, how much technology is truly necessary?

Jonathan Zhang | Daily Trojan

Some professors allow laptops as an option for note-taking — giving students the chance to use them for social networking — but the distraction laptops pose is not the issue.

Many schools that use laptops and other digital teaching tools do not use them to their fullest potential.

Teaching concepts through non-interactive mediums like PowerPoint and Blackboard do not prepare students for the realities of the world.

Businesses search for candidates that have plenty of work experience and can collaborate well — not for the candidates with the highest test scores and the ability to memorize and regurgitate information.

“Everything has to do with the fact that technology makes information easily accessible, leading us to take information for granted,” junior Estevan Rodriguez, a civil engineering major, said. “Students don’t remember the information; they remember how to get information.”

As PowerPoints summarize class material into bullet points, our ability to absorb broader concepts diminishes. We confine ourselves to memorizing small, easily learned portions as opposed to understanding the greater picture.

Much debate stems from students’ decision to take notes on laptops as well. Although it is easier and more efficient to type notes, physically writing out words helps the development of visual, motor and cognitive functions, according to a July 2011 article by the Huffington Post. When you physically write out words, the thinking, language and working memory regions of the brain activate, giving you a mental workout. In comparison, typing out notes is sort of like eating Doritos.

Moreover, in October 2010, the Wall Street Journal reported that writing essays by hand versus with a keyboard helps you express more ideas, write faster and use more words.

Adaptive learning combined with technology has the most potential in education. Programs can adapt to student’s individual strengths and weaknesses, much like a teaching assistant or a tutor might. However, the bulk of learning should be active learning: writing, reading, researching, group work and problem-solving, rather than sitting and attempting to absorb information.

Education should enhance students’ abilities to think critically by processing and using information in a collaborative environment. The assimilation of technology into classrooms shouldn’t hinder this goal by giving students easy access to answers — answers that don’t require the employment of creativity.


Andrew Gomez is a senior majoring in philosophy politics and law. His column “Bête Noire” runs every other Thursday.

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