With technology advancing as quickly as it is, we have seen changes throughout all different aspects of our lives. One major change has shockingly been in the classroom.

Thinking back to even five years ago, technology did not play as major role in the way we learned as it does today. Laptops were not as common in the classroom and online assignments were rare. Only updated classrooms had advanced tools such as built-in projectors and smart boards to work with; chalk boards and dry erase boards were the norm in most other classrooms. But as technology has advanced, so has our way of life. We have adapted to the electronic age and have implemented many uses of technology within our classrooms. But with all this technology, it poses the question: is technology distracting us from learning?

Tara DePetrillo, a University of Rhode Island alumni from the class of 2008, described what URI was like when she attended.

“The science buildings were not technologically advanced at all,” DePetrillo said. “The chemistry professors would write on the chalkboard. I don’t think there was even a projector in the room… It was rare for kids to actually bring their laptops with them to take notes. I had a notebook or two for each class… We had actual books, not e-books. They did offer a few online classes though.”

 

Since then, there have been rapid changes in the classrooms. Chalkboards are now virtually obsolete on campus, having been replaced by projectors and dry erase boards. Online assignments are very common, and laptops seem to have become the norm over notebook use (depending on the professor and class, however).

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This advancement has tasked students with another challenge while in class; they have to be willing to participate and pay attention in class, instead of utilizing technology as a distraction. While coming to a definitive answer as to whether or not technology is distracting is completely subjective, many students expressed their opinions on the matter.

Jacquie Callery, a junior writing and rhetoric major with a minor in public relations, described her opinions on technology in the classroom.

“As far as laptops and cellphones go, I definitely find them distracting from a personal standpoint,” Callery said. “Sometimes it’s tempting to do non-school related things in class when we are allowed to have our laptops out… especially in the slower classes,” Callery said.

 

Another student posed a contrasting idea, stating that technology has improved his way of learning.

I find it extremely useful when my professor creates PowerPoint slides and follows along with them during the lecture,” he said. “The majority of the time, if possible, I print the PowerPoint slides ahead of lecture and follow along, taking any additional notes. This allows me to focus on what the professor is saying rather than worry about running out of time while taking notes.”

He went on to say that he believes distractions can be avoided in the classroom, stating, “Ultimately, it all comes down to the student. Someone can spend all their time on their phone during a lecture, but this can easily be avoided, by putting it on silent and in their backpack.”

 

Given that distractions definitely come from technology, the use of it in the classroom is a challenge that students have had to adjust to. With the advancement of technology consistently rising, students are going to be facing more and more opportunities for distractions in the future. When it comes down to it, it is all about how you utilize these advancements. You can use it to help you succeed in school, or it could be your downfall. Find out which learning strategy works best for you, and make whatever changes you need to. If you learn better with technology, use your laptop for notes. If you find yourself checking Facebook more than Sakai, it may be time to go back to a pen and paper, and switch off your phone. Recognizing what works best for you will help you to get the most out of your years at URI.