Digital era; the coin has two sides

The surge of digital technologies has changed all aspects of life. As a millennial, I have personally seen the drastic shift from the pre-digital era to the era of digital technologies. The new generation cannot imagine a world free from technology. This necessitates a continuous update to the teaching methods that can catch up with the rate at which the world is changing.

While these new mediums and communication channels open up many new opportunities to make learning more comfortable, they can also cause distraction and disrupt the learning performance. Ancient people would be willing to travel over long distances for days in search of answers. However, people have become much less patient with learning because they can answer every question with a simple Google search. This makes teachers work a lot harder to keep their students interested and earn their trust.

Social media is now providing us with an immediate gratification that makes it increasingly harder to focus and strive for challenging, long term goals. This is incredibly destructive for young children who are in their early stages of building their future. Finding the right balance in using the technologies for our benefit is a pressing priority that parents, teachers, and policymakers need to determine.

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16 Responses to Digital era; the coin has two sides

  1. shoagland says:

    Hi Mae, thanks for your post! I am also a millennial that has seen a major shift – although the shift I have seen probably isn’t as big as the shift my parents or grandparents have witnessed. Nevertheless, the change is ongoing and is some of the negative consequences that you mention seem to be only getting worse. There is no doubt that technology has opened up the world of learning to so many people and has done a lot of good in society. However, I also wonder if some of the technological advancements have been harmful to the mental health of some students. There is so much information out there now that it seems overwhelming to even think about it, not to mention how fast the information is changing. I am studying coastal engineering and I think about all the other things I have to know today (e.g., computer science / programming languages) just to do my research. Part of me is grateful for the technology that has allowed me to learn so many different things, and part of me wishes that I lived in a more simple time where I could focus on learning 1 thing at a time! But I am sure that is fallacious thinking, and I’m sure that people who lived back then probably felt the same. One thing that has helped me is getting rid of social media – I deleted all my social media accounts (except Facebook because I don’t know my password) and it was the most freeing experience! No more social media obligations – it feels great! Anyways, sorry I am rambling now. Thanks again for sharing your post!

  2. reemacademicblog says:

    Thanks for sharing this post! I think what you said is a very reasonable concern, which I share too in my post. There certainly comes downsides with the introduction of technology into our classrooms, especially at early stages of sophomore and junior levels, where students have just made a big transition from school to university style of teaching. And with the dependence of our life on different kinds of technology, we better be cautious in bringing technology to another aspect of our life: education. Having said that, I also think we shouldn’t be too scared of it, using technology in ways that benefit our classrooms and help students become more engaged is a plus. I think when you said it is a coin with two sides, you accurately described the situation we are facing. This is why we have to be more thoughtful in paving the next steps of teaching.

  3. hokieinstructor says:

    This made me think of all of the debates around handwriting v. typing notes and the role of technology in helping or hindering primary skills learning. For example, this article: https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/articles/teaching-content/case-handwriting/. There seems to be a good case for keeping typing for a stage after learning handwriting because it helps thinking and connecting ideas. The issue I have is whether or not it is our job in higher ed to consider these early learning issues. Is it still applicable to our level of instruction? Is it our job to enforce learning skill acquisition?

  4. hleah says:

    I’m always torn when people discuss irreconcilable differences between how older and younger generations operate–on the one hand, I don’t assume that I fully understand people I don’t know or that everyone thinks like me, but I also wonder how much technology really changes human nature–do we know that students are so much less patient and less trusting and more distractible? How are we sure?

    One thing I think about a lot when this comes up in education is Perry’s stages of undergraduate development, first proposed in the 1960’s. Even long before social media or google, he described undergraduates as coming to college with a didactic, right-or-wrong view of knowledge, assuming that all questions could be answered by their teachers or existing texts and that they simply needed to memorize the answers or learn how to find them (as through a library catalog). He proposed it was the duty of a college education to lead students to have a more nuanced view of what knowledge is and where it comes from. So I wonder how much our students have actually fundamentally changed versus how much their libraries are just much faster than previous generations’. I wonder how much of it is a product of older folks (myself included!) forgetting what it was like to be fresh out of high school.

    I do absolutely agree with you, however, that there’s a balance to be struck in using technology in the classroom, and that I don’t think it’s wise to bring any technology into the classroom that isn’t being used intentionally to fill a real educational need.

  5. hello maftouni, I totally agree about the fact that this era is a digital one, and I can join you on the personal journey we have to see this dramatic change. however, I remember my first time teaching where the students tried to use google to answer the question I have asked, and I remember that I acted in a way that they were happy about it. that yea please show me and I compared to their finding with an answer and a continuation of the class. they have realized that it is not about the easiness of finding information, but the fact of how to judge if it was right or not.

  6. deryaipek says:

    Thank you for the post, Maftouni! I can relate to your comments as a millennial myself. We were born in the midst of this drastic paradigm change. I think we are very lucky because we witnessed both traditional era and the modern era and we understand both sides. I think this is a great advantage for our generation from a pedagogy perspective. We are the ones that can bridge the traditional and digital ends of pedagogy effectively.

  7. samsblog says:

    Thank you for this post, Maftouni! I wrestle with many of the same preoccupations and I think I may ultimately side with your point, which is that in many ways technology and the access to technology in the classroom at least threatens to undermine critical thinking. One of my main concerns, when I do incorporate various digital media or seek to integrate technology in the classroom, is how to reconcile the fact that technology increases our ability to reach others and allows us to research more efficiently against the fact that many students may use the technology as a distraction. Ultimately, I think I have negotiated this reality by focusing on how to use our many resources to hone research skills.

  8. Rania says:

    Thanks Maede for the concise post that highlighted an important topic. I agree with you technology has both positive and negative sides. On the hand, technology is a very powerful tool for education. It can give instructors and students great sources, new opportunities for learning ways to collaborate, create, and save money. On the other hand, technology can be addicting and it can hurt our communication skills along with health problems like insomnia, eyestrain, and increased anxiety and depression. However, talking about technology in the classroom I think technology should have no influence on learning outcomes. educators should define the desired learning outcomes and then choose the technology that assists interaction to support these learning outcomes not just using technology without any reasons.

  9. Thank you for this post. I agree that digital technology has made it much harder to concentrate on one long, boring task for extended periods of time. For this reason, I don’t currently have any active social media accounts, other than academic accounts. For various reasons, I feel that it is worth it to use technology to complete almost all of my work tasks such as reading and writing, despite the risk of distractions. One primary reason is that I feel that the ergonomics of my computer are much better than the alternative, because it is easier to use proper posture with a well-positioned computer set up. I also feel that I accomplish my work much more quickly, have much more reliable notes, can quickly access readings, notes, and papers from the past, and can easily use the internet to find new sources. So, sometimes I think that we focus so much on the negative aspects of technology that we forget the positive side and why it is such a wonderful tool. However, I think that social media is designed to distract us (that is its purpose), and everyone has to learn for themselves how to navigate this. I feel that banning laptops delays this learning process, because it is something every student has to figure out for themselves in their own way. During the pandemic, of course, banning technology is functionally impossibly anyways.

  10. Zhenyu Yao says:

    Everything has two sides and the problem is how to measure the benefits and costs so that we can balance them and then try to maximize the benefits and minimize the costs. The digital pedagogy, on the one hand, could enhance students’ learning and understanding but on other hand, it could also be a distraction that students are disturbed by these modern technologies. As an instructor for an undergraduate course, I always pay more attention to the teaching philosophy rather than the technologies.

  11. Emma Baumgardner says:

    You bring up an interesting point in the immediacy with which we expect answers. It’s definitely been a shift in how we acquire information, and how long we’re willing to wait for that to occur. We’re kind of in an interesting juxtaposition these days in that lots of things are happening in the online world which is very immediate, but the world around us has seemed to slow a bit in the wake of covid. I’m curious to see if moving forward if this will impact how long people are (or are not) willing to wait for answers in the future.

  12. brittanyshaughnessy says:

    I loved your post! I especially loved the notion of our generation struggling with the need for instant gratitification, and not always receiving information in the timely manner that we would typically like it in. I believe that this is a problem for most digital natives, struggling to find a balance. The world has taken a change due to the current unprecedented timed, appearing to appreciate the small things a bit more. Great food for thought!

  13. alisafi says:

    Thanks for mentioning the double sides of the coin of the digital era. I agree that these new technologies are like a double-edged sword that as much as that can be useful, can be harmful as well. Accordingly, it is the responsibility of the teachers and policymakers to catch up and update the rules and styles, in order to limit the negative aspects of the new technologies while still keeping the advantages they offer. However, considering the fast pace of social change, catching up is not an easy task at all and requires more organized efforts from the different individuals that have any direct or indirect responsibility to educate our young generation.

  14. austingarren01 says:

    Maftouni,

    I agree that there are harmful impacts from social media. I have always thought that these past couple of decades (and arguably continuing into the near future), where social media has became so prominent in the world, yet is still so new, presents the “wild west phase” of social media. There doesn’t seem to be much regulation, platforms do what they want, people post what they please, and everyone is struggling to come to a consensus on the ways of dealing with this new phenomenon. It has become painfully apparent over the years that some sorts of legislature, policy, overarching guidelines, etc. are necessary. However, no one really knows right now what that should look like. I think that social media has the potential to be very useful in higher education for multiple things. However, I also think that we still have a long way to go in figuring out the best ways to make that happen.

    Austin Garren

  15. This has been a fun comment thread to read, everyone.

  16. aralvarez says:

    Hello – yes I agree, I feel that teaching now uses different techniques than when I was going through the intermediate, middle, and high school. I feel like with the changes and technologies, the education system has had to adapt. Thank you for sharing. Alexandria Rossi Alvarez

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