I recently watched the Frontline Show digital_nation and found the show to be very intriguing. I understand that technology is changing quickly and that our world is changing quickly with it. But many of the topics this video explored were things I was totally unaware of. For example, I had never heard of “PC Bangs” (which are computer gaming rooms in South Korea), and never realized that people there (and elsewhere) are so addicted to gaming that it has affected their health, and that some people have actually died from gaming too long without taking breaks to eat and drink. I also never realized that there are people who play games such as World of Warcraft for up to 20 hours per week. These people can meet up at conferences, and meet those they say have become some of their best friends through the game, but that they have never actually met. I never thought about the military pilots who fly drones in war zones from a technology room thousands of miles away, and who then drive home to have dinner with their families. And I have never heard of Second Life, an immersive 3D online universe that many businesses are now using to host business meetings. All of these things show how technology has changed our lives. But we have yet to decide if we have changed for better or for worse. Have we gone too far? I am still deciding.
One topic that was discussed is one I am fairly familiar with, and that I would like to explore more. It is the idea of multitasking and using technology in the classroom. One chapter in this video followed students at MIT who were constantly multitasking. Many times they had multiple devices up and running while in class and while studying. They claim that they are good at multitasking and that it would be unfair for professors to make them stop. But some say that this constant connection makes students distracted and in need of constant stimulation. Perhaps they are doing themselves a disservice by multitasking. Can they really soak in as much information from a lecture while they are checking Facebook and replying to emails as they could if they were sitting with a notebook in front of them and listening only to the professor? I have to think that by multitasking during class, there is something that is lost. After all, classic psychology says that our brain cannot do two things at once, and that there is no such thing as multitasking. I tend to agree.
I remember sitting in classes and being amazed that after making it through high school, where cell phones and laptops were strictly prohibited, that in college many students brought their laptops to class. I would sit and watch as other students perused Facebook and their email during class, and sometimes even took notes on the class material. I was eager to try it out for myself. But when I did, I found that I could not pay attention to two things at once, and if I had my laptop in front of me, I was not paying as much attention and did not absorb as much knowledge in class. Even if I did not have social media sites pulled up on my computer, I would find my mind wondering about random things, and I would look it up on the internet. After all, why not, when I could get an instant answer and instant gratification. Instead of paying attention to the lecture, my mind would wander to whatever popped up on my computer screen.
Although I do think that technology has a place in the classroom, I think that it should be limited. Technology should be integrated at the teacher’s discretion, and used for course related activities only when it has a specific purpose and when the teacher allows it. Having students sit through an entire class with laptops out for no apparent reason is not helpful in my point of view. It is simply distracting.