Most of the time, technological development is a good thing. But there are five developments worth noting, that are both good, and very obviously, bad for student learning. And sometimes, The Textbook Guru likes to have fun with his posts. The five biggest game-changers for the modern student are:
1. Affordable Laptops
No student wants to go back to the relative stone age of desktop computers and (gasp) typewriters. The ability to not only type, save and print papers, but bring a laptop to class, has thrown open the doors to new ways of note-taking and accessing information. The contribution to curing note-induced hand-cramping is also of note. But any teacher staring up at a sea of Apple logos instead of smiling faces can tell you: it’s harder than ever to get students to pay attention. Some draconian instructors have even banned laptops in the classroom.
Facebook is probably the single worst thing to happen to productivity since the advent of the internet (YouTube and StumbleUpon might be a close seconds). Sitting at the back of a crowded lecture hall, you can’t count on two hands the number of blue-and-white computer screens you’ll see. Facebook makes stalking friends photos, statuses, and relationships far more appealing than studying, and as the number two most visited site in the US (behind Google) that’s a whole lot of wasted hours. The procrastination is so intense that even students recognize its dangers: finals seasons brings a flurry of “deactivating” so students won’t be tempted to log on and check out last night’s party outfits instead of starting a paper.
There is an upside to the nefarious Facebook, though. With the new “groups” feature, Facebook has introduced a powerful collaboration tool. The ability to chat within a group, post documents, send messages and more brings the power of Google Groups right to where students spend most of their time. An e-mail can be ignored. A notification? Never.
Any student in the past decade has heard this before: “Wikipedia doesn’t count as a source.” Wikipedia is editable, meaning its credibility is obviously questionable. However, Wikipedia is also really, really useful. There’s a Wikipedia page on just about everything, and the first instinct of any student given a question is to google and then “wiki” it. It may be second nature, but almost every teacher or professor won’t accept Wikipedia as a source for an assignment.
Students have found a way around this, though, in one shortcut that is actually a good one. Wikipedia editors are supposed to post their sources in the footnotes of the page. Students trying to find legitimate sources to cite can click through to those original sources, and read and cite from there. Not all students will, but for those who do, Wikipedia can serve as a very useful launching point for research.
4. Answer Sites
Answer sites, like Yahoo! and Ask.com are the ultimate temptation for students, often younger ones who don’t know any better. I type my question, and someone answers me. However, that “someone” can be anyone.
You’d think students would know better, but a quick look (and another, and another) proves otherwise.
The desire for instant help has spawned a number of online tutor and homework help sites that are legitimate, however. I reviewed a few posts back, and our guest poster from Monday is another. Students just need to be wary, and remember that not every one online is an expert. In fact, very few are.
E-books are great resources that we’ve been talking about a lot here at The Textbook Guru. For students who need something like classical literature, who’s copyright has expired, there are great odds that a digital version will be online somewhere for free, either on Amazon or Google Books.
So what’s the drawback? Expecting books online, especially for research, can cause students to skimp on that research, and never once step foot in a library. Students might rely on the fragmented “previews” of books on Google, or only on sources they find online.
With all of the options students have in terms of online information, social networking, and choice of computer, things can get a little crazy. It’s important to be discerning while deciding what information to use, as well as which products to buy. All of the new applications and technological developments have changed the ways that students approach and learn about pretty much everything, and it’s important for students to be aware of just how technology dictates their learning.
Have any thoughts? Waste a lot of time on Facebook? Let me know in the comments!