In the fast paced, technology filled life of today, there is much debate about technology moving into schools. Some schools want to do away with paper and textbooks entirely, but some believe using technology will come at a cost, and not just the price tag. Many middle and high school students are being introduced to the idea of replacing textbooks with tablets; however, tablets are causing multitasking and attention problems, changing the way people learn, causing distractions, and causing health problems.
First of all, tablets are causing attention problems in students, as well as leading to the issue of multitasking, while the textbooks aren’t. For example, Matt Richtel, an American writer and journalist for The New York Times, quoted a professor saying, “Multitasking using ubiquitous, interactive and highly stimulating computers and phones, Professor Anderson says, appears to have a more powerful effect than TV” (Richtel Paragraph 58).
The professor makes a valid point, it seems like at every turn there is a person using their phone or tablet, even toddlers are using them, which is astonishing to think about how the future generations will end up being taught. The technology of today is the new addiction, like television was before phones and the internet. Richtel states, “But nearly 90 percent said that digital technologies were creating’an easily distracted generation with short attention spans” (Richtel Paragraph 14).
From this quote, people begin to realize how large of an issue technology is on attention spans and how much it is actually affecting people. In opposition, some say that short attention spans are not an issue due to a quote from David Wagner, a Professor at UC Berkeley, stating, “According to a study by Microsoft Canada, this is the result of our brains adapting to our environment, and it is a good thing” (Wagner Paragraph 4).
In contrast to Wagner’s point, shorter attention spans are not a good thing, a recent study shows that humans now have a smaller attention span than a goldfish. That’s unbelievable to imagine that a goldfish can hold a thought longer than a human, it’s actually quite sad. A weaker attention span could be the side effect of the brain having to adapt and change over time in the presence of technology. Secondly, tablets are changing the way people learn and textbooks aren’t.
For example, Terry Heick, a former English teacher in Kentucky, stated,”Because we’re so busy, we have this false security that we understand something because we Googled it. Now we’re moving on to the next thing instead of really rolling around with this idea and trying to understand it” (Yun Tan Paragraph 32). By this, Heick is saying that people are only scratching the surface with the depth of our thinking, instead of being critical thinkers. Critical thinking is the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment.
Another example is when Richtel stated in his article, Technology Changing How Students Learn, Teachers Say, that “But there is mounting indirect evidence that constant use of technology can affect behavior, particularly in developing brains, because of heavy stimulation and rapid shifts in attention” (Richtel Paragraph 10). In this quote, Richtel is saying that new technology is changing behavior, especially in younger kids. Another example is from Nicholas Carr, the author of Is Google Making Us Stupid? when he stated, “My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words.
Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski” (Carr Paragraph 4). This quote is an excellent example of how tablets are changing the learning process, a person searches for something in Google and in a few seconds their question is answered and they’re already doing something else, o deep thought is put into it. In contrast, some people believe that tablets aren’t changing the way people think. For example, Steven Pinker, who wrote Mind Over Mass Media, stated in his article, “Yes, every time we learn a fact or skill the wiring of the brain changes; it’s not as if the information is stored in the pancreas. But the existence of neural plasticity does not mean the brain is a blob of clay pounded into shape by experience” (Pinker Paragraph 5).
In that quote, Pinker is saying that experience doesn’t change the brain, which means that the way people learn can’t be changed by introducing a new piece of technology. However, people have lost the will to be critical thinkers, they just type in a question and it is answered in seconds. The loss of critical thinking definitely does change the way people think since the aim of critical thinking is to promote independent thinking, personal autonomy and reasoned judgment in thought and action, all of which are extremely important.
Third, tablets cause distractions and textbooks don’t. For example, Rachel Dretzin, the producer of Digital Nation, stated, “The school is often battling the lures of online distractions. It’s firewall blocks access to sites like YouTube and MySpace, but the kids figure out how to get to them anyway”. This shows that even though the administration put up a firewall in order to block students from going online while using tablets and computers, they snuck by the firewall and continued to be distracted instead of doing what they were supposed to be doing.
Another example is in the article, How Has Google Affected The Way Students Learn by Zhai Yun Tan, a study by Gary Small, the director of the University of California, Los Angeles’ Longevity Center, was done and Yun Tan stated, “For Small, the problem for younger people is the overuse of the technology that leads to distraction” (Yun Tan Paragraph 26). This quote is stating that if a person uses technology long enough, they will become increasingly distracted. If students are given tablets to use in a classroom setting, nothing will be inished, grades will drop, and students will spend all their time playing on the tablet or talking to their friends.
An opposing point is that teachers can put locks on certain applications so students can’t access them. For example, for an iPad, Apple Support states that when teachers configure a tablet for student use, the device is locked down. Google Play is permanently disabled on that device, and Wi-Fi and Bluetooth settings require the administrator PIN for any changes. However, teachers can’t lock everything. Plus, even unlocked applications would be distracting.
For example, students can message each other on email or IM on the tablet, which can be immensely distracting during class. Lastly, tablets have some health risks. For example, Douglas Rushkoff, a correspondent from Digital Nation, stated, “Most of the kids here say they’ve had to seek medical treatment for health problems that result from overusing the computer”. The fact that people have had to visit the doctor due to using computers and tablets too much at home is truly troubling, and now they want to integrate them into schools, where there would be an extra eight hours of using tablets.
Another example is from Ferris Jabr, a writer at Scientific American, wrote The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper versus Screens. In his article, he states that, “prolonged reading on glossy self-illuminated screens can cause eyestrain, headaches and blurred vision” (Paragraph 21). The symptoms from the quote aren’t something to be ignored, and can probably lead to other, more extensive problems. In opposition, some people believe that tablets have the same health risks as phones and computers, which they use all the time at home.
For example, Maryanne Demasi, who wrote Mobile Phones and Brain Cancer: No Evidence of Health Risk Is Not the Same as Safe, quoted Dr. Karipidis in her article, “There is no established evidence that RF radiation from tablets and phones and Wi-Fi causes health effects,’ says Dr. Ken Karipidis, a spokesperson for ARPANSA” (Demasi Paragraph 14). This quote shows that only considering one doctor’s statement that there is no evidence that new technology and media causes harm, doesn’t mean it’s true. That just shows that there hasn’t been enough research done on the topic to find out if it truly does cause harm.
In conclusion, even though tablets have some positive aspects, they shouldn’t be used in schools due to the fact that they cause health problems, distractions, multitasking and attention problems, and are changing the way people learn. All extremely serious reasons not to use the tablets instead of the textbooks, especially since technology is getting progressively popular. This decision is a substantial debate right now seeing that parents are concerned for their students well being and education. Replacing textbooks with tablets is an immense decision and it will change the course of teaching and education for generations to come.