Impact of Technology on Learning

Please respond to the question of “How do you feel that technology has impacted learning both in and outside of the classroom?”


I returned to the classroom as a student about 7 years ago after having been out of a classroom, since 1986. I enrolled in “Anthropology of Southeast Alaska” thinking that this would help me to get a better understanding of the new community I had recently moved into and also as a way to meet new people. I didn’t think anything of taking my laptop to the first day of class as I had gotten out of the habit of taking hand-written notes. I found that I was much older than all of the students (closest might have been in the mid-20s), and that I as the only student who brought a device to class and used it openly. At the time it didn’t even occur to me that a laptop might not be accepted by the instructor and I didn’t even think to ask his permission. The instructor did use a powerpoint along with a whiteboard for his lectures and we had a lot of class discussion.

What I found was that I did use the laptop to take notes, but more importantly (at least to me) was that I was able to look up terms, locations, ideas that were discussed in class that were new to me. I’ve never taken an anthropology course before, so the terminology was new and I wasn’t familiar with the geographical spaces of southeast, so the place names were new. Had I just been writing down the terms to look up later or locations, I might not have been able to get the spelling correct, or not bothered to revisit the terms when they were out of context, nor been able to connect the terms to whatever we were talking out at the moment. When it came time to submit papers, these were printed out and handed in, just like I did as an undergraduate in the 80s.

I never thought that bringing the laptop into class might be a distraction for the other students. Were they watching me as I googled terms? Were they watching when I went searching off on a tangent? In reflection, I’m pretty sure I was being a responsible student and I wasn’t checking email, chatting, or watching cats on video, but I may have been sketching out ideas for forthcoming assignments using a drawing program. I image that that might been distracting. I often wonder what that instructor is doing in his class these days. I hope he has embraced using some technology in the class, even if it is getting students to look things up and sharing what they find back to the class.

The idea about that classroom experience almost a decade ago, was sparked by this blog post, by Megan Egbert, titled, “10 reasons why I will continue to give my children handheld devices” on her site:

She made this post in response to a Huffington post called, “10 Reasons Why Handheld Devices Should Be Banned for Children Under the Age of 12.”

Egbert’s reasons:

  • Because banning things never, ever, ever works
  • Problem solving
  • Technology Skills
  • Expectations in school
  • Interest
  • Because I care about their brains
  • Girls
  • Balanced Life
  • Literacy
  • Reality

I think that Egbert has a very healthy and realistic viewpoint of allowing her children to use technology in their everyday life. While browsing through her site, she seems to have a good understanding of how to balance using and enjoying technology with non-wired activities and it seems like the technology use she allows her children is somewhat supervised. The idea of completely banning handheld devices from a child as suggested by Chris Rowan in the Huffington post, seems very much over the top. She does bring in some very good points, and she has some references to support her objections. But the reality of banning access to emerging technology is unrealistic.



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