Technology and Learning

Most of us have had experience of “e-learning” in school, where basically technology is used as an aide to teaching. E-learning can take place as webcast lectures, or forum discussions, or chatrooms, or online quizzes. Actually everything conducted online that counts for marks can be counted as e-learning. There’s a lot of mixed feelings about this mode of instruction, among the students and staff. It’s good in small doses, in that it lets people interact in a more intimate way outside of class. Students get to voice their thoughts more bravely without being judged, and social hierarchy disappears. However, most people get annoyed after a while because it can be so hard to focus on the lesson when you’re at home and your fingers are itching to open that other tab and go to a completely different website.

And really, that’s the crux of the problem with technology and learning. Technology is bursting with distractions. How many people, when on the computer, really have only 1 window open at one time? Even when doing work, you have your internet research, your Word document and some PDF readings open that you must toggle around. And it’s so easy to add Facebook to the mix, or open some music. In class, too, it has been found that having technological devices with you does not help in your efficiency at all. Having a laptop on actually makes you zone out more often, and you miss more of the teacher’s words. And when handphones are kept in your bags in silent mode, they do still vibrate when you receive a new message, which leaves an unseen stress on you.

And I’m sure some of us have experienced the phenomenon of having something to say or ask, but deciding to leave it to an email later, rather than saying it on the spot. Some tutors even encourage that sort of behaviour in tutorials. Students can type out their responses on the forum even during class, if they do not wish to speak it out or there is a lack of time. I find this most startling. This totally discourages pupils from voicing their most intellectual opinions, and causes everybody to retreat to their own little internet shells, with its delayed feedback and disinhibited way of speech.

Granted, that doesn’t really happen. In my tutorial, students still speak out in class rather than type feverishly into their gadgets. That said, I’m not sure how much more useful technology is in that regard. Being able to speak out in class is a liberating and gratifying experience, and encouraging shy students to type doesn’t really get them out of their shyness. In time to come, they still have to force themselves to speak up physically.

Technology also has another added problem of notes. Nowadays people think it’s cool to type notes into their Powerpoint slides on their laptops or their iPads. I must say that for some kinds of learners, the process of writing increases cognitive processing and we remember better. I don’t believe typing has the same effect. Plus, what happened to “don’t stare at the screen for too long or else you’ll get myopia?” From what I see, people are glued to their screens during lessons, their fingers hard at work tapping away, and some of those screens have probably the maximum brightness level.

And of course, let’s not forget the irritating distraction of having someone sitting in front of you play DotA. This always happens, especially to people who sit in the front row. No idea why.

Also, just a point that whenever I need my laptop for class, it runs out of battery and I must scurry around looking for a power switch. And because power switches tend to be located at the walls, I end up needing to sit at some emo corner, or squeezing among people I don’t know.


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