Technology Take Over

by Heather Kallevig

Article Review: Technology Distraction and the Learning Environment

Photo By Sergey Zolkin

Technology is taking over. As we walk the steps of our daily lives, an observer will witness people using their devices with purpose or distraction. Whether parents are attempting to entertain their children with an iPad game, a faculty member is e-mailing during a meeting, students are Facebooking in the middle of class, or drivers are risking lives to send an “urgent” text, the use and effects of technology are constantly in our view. In Technology Distraction and the Learning Environment, Audrey Griffin of Chowen University draws our attention to the societal obsession with our devices.

Griffin begins with a discussion on technology obsession followed by its relation to multitasking and causes. Statistics confirm we are obsessed with our devices – “According to Nielsen in 2011, the number of text messages exchanged monthly (both SMS and MMS) averaged 1,914 per user aged 18 – 24.” Griffin conducted a classroom study where students were asked to avoid all technology for half a day then write a paper about it. All but one of the students found this difficult, three could not complete the study. While college students are likely to need to use their computer for homework, it is likely that most people would consider going a day or even half a day without their devices nearly impossible.

Multitasking behavior results from this obsession. The word multitasking was coined in 1966 to refer to a computer capable of doing several tasks – today it is just as frequently used to refer to humans. Griffin argues computers are meant to multitask while humans are not. Yet we often find it difficult to do only one thing at a time. The possible reasons for multitasking outlined in this paper are: an inability to concentrate, boredom – the need to be entertained, cognitive overload, and technology addiction.

Next Griffin moves to the classroom and evaluates how technology obsession affects education. She begins with the benefits of allowing technology in the classroom. Allowing computers in the classroom facilitates note taking, “Several disciplines have found that student access to laptops during class allows for animating and demonstrating various concepts, exercises using interactive software, collaborative learning exercises, instant feedback, and evaluation and testing.” However, Griffin stands firm with the drawbacks of allowing technology in the classroom, visual effects of computers, phones, etc are more disturbing than other traditional distracters, use of devices distract not only the student using it but the students around them, use of laptops place a barrier between the student and the professor, it requires multitasking, and it sends a negative message to other students in the classroom.

She ends by offering solutions for faculty in addressing the technology obsession. Teachers should conduct lessons that are active and discussion oriented, incorporate meaningful laptop-based activities, and regularly monitor the classroom. In the most extreme instances a full ban of technology is optional.

My responsePhoto By Aleksi Tappura

After reading this article, I find it necessary to offer an opinion. I do agree distraction addiction is an issue, but I do not agree with tactics quite as extreme as Griffin’s. I myself am an avid computer user in class and feel the implementation of technology is beneficial when used properly.

I can type much more quickly, while also exploring additional resources relevant to the topic discussed in class. While I agree technology expectations need to be outlined for students in middle and high school, I feel college students are adults in control of their own education. They can choose whether to come to class, and they will implement the tools most likely to contribute to their success.

Yes, sometimes technology is a distraction, but our devices are taking over for many reasons, including the fact that they make life easier and have endless benefits and possibilities. Technology, when employed with control and purpose has the potential to enrich our lives.

Article: Technology Distraction and the Learning Environment

By: Audrey Griffin

0 thoughts on “Technology Take Over

  1. morri219 says:

    I wonder whether new visual technologies in the classroom are actually anymore distracting than “traditional” ones. Or, a better question might be how does Griffin’s analysis of distraction compare with past studies of distraction in similar classroom environments, where laptops, tablets, etc. were not available. Distraction, I’d guess, probably remains constant regardless of the types of technologies within a classroom. I’ll have to check out the article though!

  2. joygreenleaf says:

    Great post! I love your thoughts! I feel the same way: it is necessary to regulate the use of technologies (to reduce the amount of distraction) but technologies can be really helpful in engaging students as well. In Wright’s Write blog, he talked about how gaming technologies can be used to enhance students’ learning. So, I feel, as instructors (or at least future instructors), if we carefully design our course to incorporate technologies and accommodate for possible distractions, we can really engage students and make our class fun! I think Dr. V’s use of video conferencing to bring outside expert is a great example of how technologies can be used to enhance students’ learnings.

  3. Heather says:

    You have a good point comparing past and present distractions. How is doodling different from note-taking, and I know kids used to sneak a yoyo into class 🙂

  4. DMCrim says:

    I really resonated with this statement: “it is likely that most people would consider going a day or even half a day without their devices nearly impossible” – I can say I totally agree with this statement but find it a bit alarming! I thought about this for a second, and I don’t think I could go very long without my cell phone! I could probably survive without my laptop for a few days, mostly because I can do everything on my phone. Kinda sad! This may only be due to school and work related tasks I have to accomplish – if I was on vacation the though of not having my phone / laptop sounds a lot more realistic. Interesting concept to think about! Also, I completely agree that technology has brought many advances to the classroom and used with self-control can beneficial to students in many ways!

  5. jaredmwright says:

    When I read this I thought of all of the kids in my SOC100 class that I TA for. It is like looking at a sea of Apple logos glowing from their laptops! Personally, I like leaving my cell phone at home sometimes and getting away from all the tech, but I can see how younger people could find that unfathomable. I agree with your conclusion. Working with tech and finding new ways to integrate it into the learning process is the key.

  6. thejoshsarver says:

    Technology can certainly be distracting. Particularly in large lecture halls or classrooms, it can be very tempting to zone out and be distracted by all of the bells and whistles and instant gratification offered by the 24/7 entertainment devices in our pockets or on our desks. Perhaps it’s time to re-examine the structure of lectures or how we teach if we are failing to capture the attention of students in traditional classroom settings. Is it really necessary to have lectures where a professor sits in front of a massive audience and reads from slides? It’s no wonder that students get distracted, if you take a look at some of the archaic teaching methods trying to compete with Angry Birds and an endless Twitter feed.

    Thanks for sharing!

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