Gadgets at College: Must Have or Better Avoid?

June 10th, 2015

By Terry Smith

Over the past 5 years, we have seen the mass invasion of tech gadgets into educational system. Gadgets have become indispensable pieces of electronics for both students and teachers when it comes to keeping up with college schedule, organizing and sharing information, passing tests, performing complicated calculations. But are they must-have items to bring to college on a daily basis? Let’s figure out.

LA technology and education mismatch

We all remember LA schools’ iPad adventure. This was a bold project aiming to become a technologic breakthrough in education. The District invested $1.3 billion in iPads. The price of each iPad was $768, plus extra $200 for the Apple curriculum license.

Nevertheless, all went wrong. Students and teachers faced various types of app interruptions at least once per class. Now the LA School District asks for a complete refund or a delivery of the state-of-art technology as Apple promised. But who should take the blame here? Apple, because they sold an incomplete product? Or the School District, because they somehow forgot to test its functionality before implementing it.

The LA case uncovers the more complex problem – technological weakness of the US educational system. Each coin has two sides, so does technology in classrooms.

New approach to knowledge vs. device-abuse

In fact, gadgets may turn boring college studies into a new adventure and motivate students to go on. A seemingly boring topic can easily become alive if students start exploring it with multimedia or apps on their devices. The same is true about passing tests and exams. A standardized testing procedure on tablets can optimize students’ experience and enhance measurement.

The side effect of bringing gadgets to college is an uncontrolled device use during classes, and even an abuse. As study shows, children get used to gadgets quickly and depend much on the entertainment brought by the modern hardware. College students though taking more responsibilities for themselves and their actions often fail to stop playing with gadgets and switch to learning. Social media and various entertainment apps are other time-killers during boring classes.

Gadgets, health and communication

Lightweight tablets are easier than a backpack to carry to college. Devices can store as much data as a dozen of 200-page books. But starring at screen for several hours and lack of motion isn’t favorable for young human health. In the 1980-s students went outside to play in a college’s playground. Now, they stick to watching YouTube videos or playing games for the rest of the day.

Another key aspect of change is communication and social interaction. Social life at college teaches you to find borders between your individuality and others, express yourself, find a compromise. It requires a lot of emotional and mental input from a student. A machine is much simpler. Just type an answer and it shows whether you are right or wrong. College students spend so much time with devices, so sometimes they don’t know how to start a small-talk with their mates.

Fast access to information vs. creativity

Gadgets provide a quick access to information. College students can compare various points of view. Such enormous amount of Internet data encourages fast info processing and compilation. But it might negative affect students’ imagination and creativity. Earlier to write an essay, a student would spend much time in the library and think of personal vision of the problem. Now they can Google and copy-paste others’ ideas into a brief piece of content or even download a ready essay on any topic. About what thinking activity can we talk here?

Gadgets at college, let them in?

Progress is unstoppable and we need to embrace technological transition in college education. But LA iPad case teaches that evolution is better than revolution. The problem happened due to a large-scale implementation of technology, which was forced suddenly. It was supposed to be introduced gradually and ease this change.

So inclusive technology might be the solution that colleges need. Technology in educational system isn’t a goal, it’s a means. A tablet should accompany studies and provide additional resources.

Transforming old college system can’t happen in one click. Both students and teachers need time to adapt. Teachers will upgrade tech skills to be proficient with devices. Students will get used to new rules in education.


About the author:

Terry Smith is a freelance web developer and blogger. He loves testing and reviewing new educational tools and exploring ed-tech topics. Follow Terry on Twitter.


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