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Monday, August 3, 2020

Pro: Technological Distractions

Do you remember trying to fit as much information as possible in cramped handwriting on that one notecard that one high school teacher let you bring into your final exam? Remember how one third of that information ended up being useless, another third you forgot how to use, and the remaining third actually helped?

Technology is that note card—at its worst, a rabbithole to distractions, and at its best, a crutch for a faulty memory.

Although technology can be a useful tool for learning outside the classroom, phones, tablets and laptops should remain as supplementary tools for the learning process.

Imagine the attention required when having a conversation with one person. Now, imagine trying to pay as much attention to that original person with several other people talking to you at the same time.

When teachers permit technological devices in their classroom, even if they include its use as part of their lesson, their students are now virtually connected to hundreds of other information inputs. The educator must then compete with these inputs for their student’s attention in his or her own classroom.

Tristan Harris, founder of nonprofit Time Well Spent, compared the allure—and insidiousness—of technology to that of a slot machine.

Harris’ comparison is in line with studies that have found that technology impacts the pleasure system of the brain in the same way many addictive substances do. The former Google employee maintained that technology is designed to be addictive and all-attention consuming, even in the way our varied screens are lit and colored.

A study conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that students barred from access to the internet tested significantly better than those granted full access to the web during their exams. This study was conducted on over 1,000 students from West Point and researchers indicated that they believe the results differences would be exacerbated in a less rigorous academic setting.

The classes we’ve taken since kindergarten are ultimately and essentially intended to make us critical thinkers. Technology, which puts information and opinions generated by others at our fingertips, encourages its users to ask Alexa, Siri or Google, rather than putting in the work to find the answer or solution ourselves.

Technology is designed to make your life easier or make your life convenient, but now it requires less energy to learn. Since you don’t have to try to figure something out, you just look it up, and your brain is used to not learning.

In the end, the addictive nature of technology suggests that it detracts from our confidence, independence and attention span far more than it assists in an educational setting.

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