The Crescent

Technology May Shape Students’ Learning and Work Ethic for the Better

October 17, 2012

I was learning to read when the Internet came on the scene. So in addition to reading, writing, and math, I also took computer classes in elementary school. By the time I reached middle school, I was a proficient techy. This is not a unique experience for our generation. Most of us could navigate the World Wide Web—much to the fascination and amazement of our parents and grandparents—by the time we started riding a bike.

So as advancements were made in cyberspace, we adapted as well. And now as college-age students, technology is essential to our daily lives, and most of us wish to incorporate it into our education. Yet with so much time spent texting, Facebooking, YouTube watching, and Pinning, professors across the country are concerned for the educational well-being of their students.

In a 2009 interview with Frontline, psychologist and director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self Sherry Turkle said, “I teach at MIT. I teach the most brilliant students in the world. But they have done themselves a disservice by drinking the Kool-Aid and believing that a multitasking learning environment will serve their best purposes, because they need to be taught how to make a sustained, complicated argument on a hard, cultural, historical, psychological point.”

And no doubt, I agree. I came to George Fox University because I knew a liberal arts education would enhance me as a well-rounded individual. I wanted to be taught to think critically and intelligently so that I would be more likely to land a job.

Yet, with the emphasis on “well-rounded” come high demands. Not only is my education “well-rounded” with courses on art history to digital multimedia, but I’m also advised to be a leader, an athlete, a Bible study member, a student worker, a girlfriend, and a mission team member. With this pressure to be a part of so much at one time comes the reliance on instantaneous research and communication.

Daniel de Vise writes in the Washington Post last May that, “Some critics say colleges and their students have grown lazy. Today’s collegiate culture, they say, rewards students with high grades for minimal effort and distracts them with athletics, clubs and climbing walls on campuses that increasingly resemble resorts.”

Lazy compared to what standards? That our philosophical analysis papers are not up to par? Or that Shakespeare language sounds foreign to me? That today’s students would much rather create software, websites, and social networks that advance our society?

Social media’s influence has questioned the intelligence of today’s youth. We’re not really smart, just spoiled and lazy, with all the answers in the world at our fingertips. So, what? I have a question, I “Google it”, half a second later I have more information at my disposal than I could ever imagine. I wouldn’t call that lazy; I’d call that efficient and resourceful.

Yet, this transition to an “everyone can know everything” world is what causes doubt and mistrust.

Also in an interview with Frontline in 2009, Professor James Paul Gee said, “When print replaced oral culture or when writing happened there were certain things we lost, one of them was memory.”

Just as writing replaced oral tradition, social media is slowly replacing the book and the way we write. And it’s okay. Yes, our generation may appear to be overly consumed with networking, but it’s not all terrible; we’re just different. We’ve discovered new ways to interact, connect, learn, and socialize. And who’s to say this is the improper way?

This change in technology allows our generation to define ourselves. We’re not like our parents, we won’t confine to going to work in an office with cubicles, our immersion in technology pushes outside the box.

Companies like Google are responding to the needs of their younger employees and clients. “Though no two Google offices are the same, visitors to any office can expect to find a few common features: murals and decorations expressing local personality; Googlers sharing cubes, yurts and “huddles”; video games, pool tables and pianos; cafes and “microkitchens” stocked with healthy food; and good old fashioned whiteboards for spur-of-the-moment brainstorming,” says the Google company website.

Social media and the Internet are not creating lazy students or unproductive workers, it’s just changing how we utilize the tools to be resourceful and efficient. So let me Facebook, text, and browse YouTube. Don’t tell me it’s laziness, I’m familiarizing myself with the tasks my future employer will one day ask me to do.

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