Technology in the Classroom: Beneficial or Detrimental?

College classrooms are almost always filled with laptops. Very few students come to class without some sort of technological device. The convenience of the web at your fingertips definitely sparks opportunity in education, but do the detrimental effects outweigh the positive?

Stacy Taylor, program chair of the finance and economics department, believes technology has its pros and cons.

“Though technology can be a great tool that adds to the student experience, it can also take away from the student’s learning opportunity,” she said. “Some students think they can surf the net and listen in class, but there is lots of research that shows that we are not as good at multi-tasking as we think.”

According to an article by Pamela DeLoatch in Psychology Today, an overload of technology can “condition the brain to pay attention to multiple stimuli.” Researchers conclude that this overload can lead to a decrease in memory and make us prone to distraction.

The distraction does not always come from your own computer but instead from the ones surrounding you.

“Students who surf the net during class are a distraction to students sitting near them,” Taylor said. “Ski videos are just as enticing to adjacent students.”

Taylor has also noticed a problem with the accuracy of web-based research students do for her classes. Students will use the internet to further their knowledge on the subject beyond what they’ve learned in the textbook, but she believes this information is “inferior to the quality of the textbook information,” and often leads to “missed questions on exams.”

According to Matthew Lynch, author of “The Edvocate,” technology creates more negative opportunities in the classroom, the biggest being cheating. Information is so easily accessible, students will use it to bypass the learning stage.

A survey by the Josephson Institute of Ethics found when 23,000 high school students were asked about academic ethics, “51 percent said that they knowingly cheated at some point on an exam but had no qualms about the behavior.”

Lynch believes technology leaves no way to trace the crimes of students. Students are no longer passing notes, or whispering to neighbors for answers, but instead silently researching on their computer or tablet. This leaves opportunity for cheating with no consequences.

Educators see some loopholes in the digital world mixing with education, but for students there are endless possibilities when they have this whole world of information at their fingertips. Do students find that enticing?

SNC Senior Devin De Long says having her laptop in class can be distracting.

“When I have my computer, I am working on stuff for another class usually,” she said. On the flipside, she uses her laptop for more efficient note-taking.

De Long says that even though she can take notes quickly through technology, she retains what she is learning further if she takes handwritten notes.

“It takes longer and you have to pay attention to what you are doing so you are actually processing the information,” she said.

SNC Junior Grace Freedman sees technology’s good and bad sides.

For her, the negatives mainly come from the inconsistency in technology. If the wifi connection is not as strong and a student is in an online class, it creates many problems, according to Freedman.

Freedman finds that communicating with professors is more effective through e-mail and appreciates her laptop when it comes to connecting with teachers.

As technology becomes more embedded in our lives, children adopt these habits earlier in life. By the time they get to college, it is widely accepted – and sometimes required – for students to be connected to digital devices during the learning process.

Though Taylor enforces technology policies in all of her classes, she also believes that as adults, students need to learn for themselves what is right and wrong.

“College is about making good choices, and a positive path,” she said. “Soon you will be in the work world and your mastery of the subjects you studied will determine your success. At some point, you have to decide who you want to be.”