Is technology the problem, or the user of it and how they use it?

Like any good thing in life, it is not usually the technology itself but how people choose to use it. I have about 5 smart phone and tablets – iPhones, iPad and Samsung for my personal use and I use about three to four of them every day. Does it mean that I spend a lot of time on my smart phone? Certainly not. The way I manage myself includes having a phone for family emergency, my main iPhone is the one for calls, it is also used as a calendar that beeps about 11 times a day to remind me of when to stop or to start doing certain routines that I do every day. The third phone and the iPad perform similar functions, which is to listen to background music on YouTube as I work at my desk. Chopin, Ludovico Einaudi and Beethoven are my main favourites, but I only recently discovered Yurima – which is rather delightful. I love listening to Marvin Gaye, Mozart and Bob Marley but I get too emotional with those and I usually can’t listen to them when I’m working. Listening to background music really does let me cut off unwanted noise and to focus. I switch on my phone to take incoming calls for a maximum of two hours a day; usually to make calls or to check messages that have been left for me.

What is the purpose of technology?

We must always remind ourselves of the purpose of using a machine or a particular piece of technology. In my opinion, there are only a couple or so reasons to use a piece of technology or a machine: to perform a task more efficiently or speedily, and for entertainment. When it comes to education and exam revision for example, about 10 to 15 years ago, the way teachers, parents and students gained access to study material including past exam questions was to telephone the company that produced them and order them to be delivered in the post or to go directly to them and buy the material. These days, if you have access to a computer and the internet then you can get those same materials in large quantity. This makes lives an awful lot easier! However, too many young people and teachers take that a step too far and the effectiveness diminishes with that little extra step.

How technology is being used in educating students

In giving questions to students to do, the teacher decides to display the questions on the white board for students to read whilst attempting the questions, instead of printing out the questions. For the purpose of revision, the student downloads the questions and looks at them on the computer screen, thinks about the answers and checks the mark scheme to see if the answers he thinks are correct.

In the two examples above, the teacher has denied each student, the opportunity to touch, feel and read the question individually, which is a different learning experience. The student who just looks at the questions on the screen and thinks about the answers for a few seconds can do more questions in a shorter time this way – very efficient but not so effective. This way, the student is missing out on an essential element of the learning process; to touch the paper, read closely, think and communicate his answers in a written format and perhaps submit the work and get at least some of the work marked by the teacher.

The above examples are perhaps a slight exaggeration, as most teachers do print some question for the students to do and most students do some written work as part of their revision. However, I guess there are too many of the scenarios I painted above happening than should be happening. I am all for protecting the environment and I think not enough attention is being paid to the way we use the limited resources we have here on earth. My belief however, is that the use of pen and paper and also printed material, creates to most an enjoyable and more effective learning experience. We could perhaps do more to recycle the papers we use and reuse things a lot more than just throwing them away.

In my next blog I will give my final thoughts on technology and how it can be tactfully used to benefit people’s lives rather than being controlled by it.