Engineering Students Losing Calculating Skills
The emphasis to include technology in education is causing many students to lose critical thinking skills that are necessary for them to truly understand class material. Turkle refers to her experience while employed at “MIT” to show the decrease in problem-solving ability among engineering students. She explains that students in the engineering department are losing their understanding of important concepts involved in solving problems because of the incorporation of calculators and the dismissal of the slide rule. When students no longer have to manually compute problems, errors become much more frequent because their general understanding of the material is not being tested (309). The students are not required to engage directly with the numbers like they have been expected to do in the past. Manual computing does not seem beneficial because technology makes the process much quicker. They begin to rely on technology as the only tool in the computing process, and errors show because they are not engaged in their thinking.
Activating Critical Thinking
When someone learns without the presence of technology, their critical thinking skills are activated. Douglass reveals his strong analytical approach of problem-solving to the reader through the ideas that he uses to educate himself, especially his idea to learn how to write. Douglass spends a great deal of time in a shipyard where he notices abbreviated letters on the wood that is used for constructing the ships. He begins to write the meaning of each abbreviation to further his writing skills (52-53). Douglass is limited to few resources and virtually no technology. This lack of resources requires him to think critically in order to meet his goal. His critical thinking is the center of his education, and his engaging experience is shown when he says that “During this time, my copy-book was the board fence, brick wall, and pavement; my pen and ink was a lump of chalk. With these, I learned mainly how to write”(Douglass 53). He has to use visual,comprehensive, and engaging skills in order to learn how to write which results in a high recollection of the material that he encounters .
Why “Word Processing” is Harmful to Students
“Word processing” proves to be harmful to most students. To paraphrase Turkle, “Word processing” is completely different than composing by hand. The software has advantages because is contains features for students to correct their papers by giving them grammar and spelling suggestions. However, students with poor writing skills usually do not benefit from this feature on the software because they quickly change their mistakes without thinking about why they made the mistakes, and why the software’s suggestions are correct. Also, the process of typing on a computer is much quicker than writing by hand. This quickness causes students to type without thinking about the words and sentences that they are using to construct their writing. Some experienced writers could not imagine composing without a computer, but inexperienced writers are at risk of misusing the technology. “Word processing” decreases a writer’s skills when the software is misused ( 313). Students benefit from engaging processes that invite thinking and examination, and certain technology harms students because it does not require these processes.
Students Misuse Software
Douglass is engaged in a long process of learning, and he uses creativity and analytics to educate himself. The lack of technology requires him to think beyond the surface level to learn how to write.The students that Turkle mention are not engaged in a detailed process when they use machines to perform functions. Also, Software such as “word processing” gives students the freedom to type very fast with no thought. Technology becomes greatly misused, and it becomes relied upon rather than being used as a tool for learning.
Many new forms of software and other devices continuously find their way into schools. The issue is that many students abuse these forms of technology. One example of students misusing technology involves the well-known software “PowerPoint.” Turkle refers to Edward R. Tufte’s suggestion about “PowerPoint”. She explains that the software can significantly improve lessons in school if it is utilized properly. However, it becomes widely misused in elementary education because elementary schools are not experienced enough to use the software as a guide for teaching their classmates. The elementary students ultimately fill slides with far too many graphics. The tool that is supposed to engage collaboration results in a messy presentation with no personal expansion of thought by the student (312). The introduction of information in bullet points seems to provide a clear and organized setup for teaching, but the PowerPoint alone cannot possibly meet the requirements to produce sufficient instruction. Turkle emphasizes the negativity of using PowerPoint in younger education when she explains that “in the hands of elementary-school students, often introduced to Powerpoint in the third grade, and often infatuated with its swooshing sounds, animated icons, and flashing text, a slide show is more likely to close down a debate then open it up” (312). The software loses its purpose when it is turned into a list of ideas with no explanation, and it ultimately harms students instead of being a useful tool in the classroom.
Douglass places a strong value on education because it is valued by the white men and women around him. His honest desire to learn is the driving force that propels his ability to succeed as a student. Douglass shows his persistence to learn by actively finding people to teach him how to read. Douglass creates bonds with the white kids in his area, and he meets with them separately, whenever he has a chance between his chores. He brings them food in exchange for reading tutorials (50). Douglass’ success comes from not much more than his attitude towards learning. His method and basis of learning is in the simplest form, yet it is very effective.
The popular idea among educators that technology itself increases learning has to be observed carefully for factual evidence. Michael Zwagstraa dives into this issue to pursue the hard evidence concerning computers in classrooms. Zwagstraa refers to a writing by Thomas Fuchs and Ludgar Woessmann discussing the “OECD Programme for International Student Assessment” which tests high school students on multiple skills in common subjects. They notice that the children who live in higher income families perform worse on the test than children in low income families. Income is linked directly with availability of technology, and the test proves that excessive exposure to technology causes students to perform poorly. They note that some incorporation of technology in schools has positive results, but excessive exposure leads to major learning drawbacks (“Computers in Classrooms May Not Increase Learning”). Technology can cause distractions for students, and these distractions cause students to lose their value of learning. The student’s attachment to technology seems to prevail over their willingness to learn.
Key to Successful Learning
The main key to successful learning proves to be the value of education, and technology seems to diminish this value when it becomes the backbone for educating students. Turkle shows how “PowerPoint” causes students to not understand the information that they present because their focus is placed on the graphics rather than material. Zwagstraa reveals that students who have more “accessibility” to Technology usually produce lower test scores. They become used to the quickness and user-friendly capabilities of technology so they rely on it, and the constant connection between a student and a screen begins to put engaged learning aside. Douglass is extremely successful at educating himself because his success forms around his desire to learn. He only has his willingness to further his reading and writing skills, and only a few resources to aid his teaching. When technology is used excessively, or is misused in education, the value of education becomes lost in the obsession over technology.
The common misconception among educators is that technology always offers more opportunities for students to learn and become involved in class than traditional learning. Technology has the potential to give students these opportunities, but it usually follows the standard classroom approach instead of engaged learning. “Technology and Education” shows a study from the “National Training Laboratories” which proved that traditional teaching formats such as speeches, videos, and other similar methods cause students to recall less information than students involved in engaged learning. Active learning allows students to collaborate with classmates, perform hands-on experiments, and apply their knowledge. Certain programs and software promote active learning, but mostinvolve the traditional inactive teaching style. (“Technology and Education”). The goal of educators who promote technology is that adding technology to education will help students learn more information in new and innovative ways. When technology uses methods that have been applied in classrooms for years, students actually learn on the same level as they do in a normal classroom setting.
Educators want students to have technology that is simple, effective, and easy to use. The problem with this concept is that students understand less about the technology they are using as technology becomes more complex yet more user-friendly. Turkle discusses how people’s view on technology leads to a lack of truly understanding how the technology functions. She refers to the term “transparency” to describe this certain view that people have involving technology. There is a high demand for user-friendly programs, but not many people want to dig deep enough to learn the construction of the technology. Technology becomes increasingly more complex each year which widens the lack of understanding among users. (313) This view of how technology should work decreases the amount of information that people are willing to understand. This thought process ultimately promotes accessibility and efficiency over learning. Turkle emphasizes this point when she notes that “Contemporary information technology encourages different habits of mind. Today’s college students are already used to taking things at (inter)face value; their successors in 2014 will be even less accustomed to probing below the surface” (313). New technologies are becoming more user-friendly, and they perform at faster rates than their outdated predecessors. However, most of these new technologies require the operator to only perform basic commands to make the technology function properly. The operator does not need to know the inner parts of the technology or the detailed coding involved in software. Instead, they only have to remember simple rules to unlock the full potential of the technology. This quick functionality causes problems in education because it promotes basic memorization instead of students mastering detailed information.
Technology Pros and Cons
Technology does not necessarily lead to great learning experiences because its design does not truly encourage students to think. The purpose of using technology in educational systems is to provide students with new learning opportunities. This purpose is defeated when technology focuses mainly on traditional classroom approaches. Also, new technology is becoming increasingly more advanced, and students are not required to know how complex technology truly works. Most technology does not provide students with new learning opportunities, and students never reach their potential when technology encourages memorization instead of analytical thinking.
The increase of technology in education has become immense in recent years, and educational systems with quality technology are often viewed as premier compared to educational systems with less technology. However, recent speculation has been formed that technology brings many negative impacts with its positive possibilities. Students using technology are not usually challenged to think critically compared to students learning without technology. Technology often becomes easily misused in classrooms which strips away the purpose of including technology in education. Technology actually inhibits many students’ learning because it does not offer new opportunities for students, and it does not challenge their reasoning.