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UWRF students face challenge of relying too heavily on technology in the classroom

February 13, 2018

Since the creation of the first cell phone in 1973 by Motorola engineer Martin Cooper, cell phones and their usage have changed drastically, according to Corey Protin from Business Insider. Over time, cell phone companies have continually upgraded the aesthetic and the functionality of the cell phone by making it faster, more customizable and by adding features such as a touchscreen, applications and even internet capabilities.

Owning a smartphone also provides you with instant access to information at any time. The appeal of being able to constantly be connected with one’s family and friends through texting and social media applications has made owning a smartphone a social norm. However, are cell phones and other internet-enabled devices such as laptops an asset in the classroom or too much of a distraction?

“A work of progress,” Grace Coggio said, a communications professor at UWRF, when describing what the role of technology is in the classroom. Coggio recognized the opportunities that technology presents, but she stressed that the unwarranted usage of electronics such as cell phones and laptops are a distraction to not only the user, but the professor and other students as well.

“Open laptops are a distraction,” Coggio said. “Students who take notes on laptops tend to only write what’s on the board and miss key ideas.”

Ultimately, she said she believes that her role as a professor is to “create an environment that is conducive for learning for everyone in the room.” Coggio does this by insisting that devices stay away unless she says otherwise. However, she understands that sometimes things come up that require immediate attention. She said she believes that if her students need to use their technology, they should just leave the room without disrupting their peers.

This shows that technology can definitely be a distraction in the classroom, but how else does it impact a student’s learning? Rick Burgsteiner, a journalism professor at UWRF, views technology in the classroom as a “supplemental tool.”

“There’s no escaping technology in the classroom,” Burgsteiner said. He said he believes that electronic devices are a good means of gathering information and presenting it, but that students can become too reliant on it. Oftentimes, Burgsteiner sees students attempting to use technology to overcompensate for their lack of content in their projects.

“If the content is thin, technology will not save you,” Burgsteiner said. He maintains a similar policy as Coggio by only allowing it when it is related to the coursework. At the end of the day, Burgsteiner wants his students to focus on the story that he is trying to teach them, and not the technology associated with his classes.

Students also said that there can be improvements made in the debate on how reliant we are on technology.

“When technology is used in class, professors should have a practical purpose for it, so it does not become a nuisance,” said Jared Taylor, a freshman at UWRF.

Taylor argued that technology should be used “strictly for schoolwork,” and that students should not have access to social media in the classroom.

Allen Croes, a freshman at UWRF, seemed to be more accepting towards the usage of electronic devices in class. “It helps make things more efficient, especially with things like D2L,” Croes said. Nonetheless, Croes thinks that having to do assignments and activities “can be inconvenient when it is not in paper.”

Both Taylor and Croes believe that using technology when it is not relevant to coursework in the classroom is “disrespectful,” and that professors should be allowed to kick a student out of their classroom if they are being too disruptive.

“In the long run, you’re wasting your money if you are misusing technology in class,” Croes said.

Technology offers students many opportunities to enrich their learning experience. Internet enabled devices provide students with instant access to information that could potentially be useful. Students are frequently required to work on computers for various online assignments and activities.

However, students and professors both seem to agree that technology usage in class should be limited to activities that are related to coursework. When a student misuses their devices in class, they are distracting themselves, their peers and their professor, which ultimately leads to a less productive classroom.

Professors at UWRF want all of their students to have an ample learning environment, and while they recognize the benefits of technology in the classroom, they do not want their students to become too reliant on their screens. When all is said and done, a college education is an investment, and if a student values spending time on Snapchat or Twitter over their lectures, they may be simply wasting money.

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