The new way to work : Chromebooks with the curriculum
October 7, 2016
As millennials know, many people of older generations tend to stereotype our demographic in several scrutinizing lights: we’re entitled, materialistic, narcissistic, cynical kids, and lazy- particularly because of all the technology we have available to us. However, with our school promoting and providing us with increasing amounts of technology every year, is it safe to say that this generalization is true? Has technology changed our way of working in a detrimental way? Or has technology improved our education system?
When asked to do a little game of word association with the phrase “the new way to work,” freshman Abby Hooks said it was,“faster, and smarter, and more thinking and working.” Her fellow freshman, Thais Kolganov, said that it’s given the world more connections. “You can work with people. My dad works with, like, people from India every single day.” What is the main reason the modern way of working has come to fit these characteristics? Technology.
Some examples of the technology provided at our school include the Mac Lab, the desktops in the mezzanine, the use of various teaching resource sites such as Canvas, Kahoot, Pear Deck and Quizlet in the classroom, and, very recently, Chromebooks that have been given to the freshmen and sophomores beginning this year. With all of this technology at our fingertips, there are several notable changes that have impacted our way of working.
In regard to how technology has affected our generation’s work ethic, freshman honors and AP Biology teacher, Mrs. Snyder, addressed our “lazy, easily distracted, and non-diligent millennial” generalization and said, “I have students sharing things with me that I don’t even ask them to share with me.” Additionally, she conceded with the idea that in many ways, technology can make students work even harder, and whether technology makes students lazier and more distracted truly depends on the person. It’s a case by case situation. “I don’t really feel like I’m ready to generalize and say that,” she said. Yet, with this idea in mind, there are still a list of pros and cons of how technology has shifted, changed, and created “the new way to work.”
To begin on the bright side, completing schoolwork with technology in school can equate to the wise words of the duo Daft Punk: “Work it harder / Make it better / Do it faster / Makes us stronger.” To prove this, Thais described, “If we didn’t have technology, then everything would take a lot longer. And then I’d lose all my worksheets. It helps me with, like, organization.” All of our documents can be auto-saved and stored in one online Google Drive accessible from multiple devices, and we at Sandburg are fortunate enough to have a school district that provides us with this helpful tool through our own personal D230 email account.
Speed also factors in as a benefit from having technology in school. Senior Annie Targosz stated, “I like using Chromebooks when I have to write a lot. I like using them if you’re typing so your hand doesn’t get tired.” Also, students working in groups can access and create Google Docs, Slides, and Sheets sharable to their entire group, as well as their teacher. Sophomore Ben Sales said in regard to vocabulary presentations in Mrs. Mattera’s class that “We can just share our slideshows to her the second we’re finished.” When asked, all of the interviewees I spoke with agreed that having technology in school makes many aspects of work move faster.
Teachers also can see that technology works in the favor of deadlines and time constraints. Mrs. Snyder said that these tools have made teaching and distributing information “much more efficient,” because “I can just slide documents, notes, or any of those things right to [my students] through Canvas or whichever format I’m giving them, and have the ability to pull it right up.” Students who have difficulty seeing problems or text presented on the board can have it right in front of them in math classes, follow along with labs up close in science classes, and look at the same document together in their English class. As a specific example, Mrs. Snyder said, “I have Pear Deck so whatever’s on my screen is on their screen, right on their Chromebook, and then I can also feed them questions and say ‘Alright, circle this part of the cell…’ and I can see their feedback.” Because of technology, the amount of time saved and the efficiency for all people involved in education can be clearly demonstrated.
Yet, with these benefits, one has to recognize that there are flaws that stem from having these tools. To describe “the new way to work,” Annie Targosz only said one word: “procrastination.” Annie recognizes that due to procrastination, already busy students can find themselves “staying up until three in the morning and crying” while doing their homework.
While the Chromebooks and the school wi-fi do have certain restrictions on what students can access, social media can lead students to be prone to obsessive distractions like scrolling through Instagram and Twitter, or “accidentally” having a 3-hour video marathon of their favorite YouTuber or Netflix show.
As another point, a certain number of students don’t enjoy using some of the applications provided at Sandburg. In particular, the change between having Macbooks to Chromebooks to the current freshmen and sophomores brought about certain feelings of distaste. To substantiate, in comparison to the Macbooks they had last year in junior high, both Thais and Abby say, “They’re so slow.” To recent Jerling Junior High alum Olivia Oberheu, “Macbooks were a lot lighter,” and her classmate Audrey Marx said, “I’m not a fan of Canvas. I think it’s really confusing. Google Classroom has simpler programs.” While these issues are to be expected in at least a few students transitioning from junior high to high school, there are other problems that technology mingled with education can expose.
The aforementioned Thais Kolganov went on to describe her experience with her eyesight, and how it has affected her opinions on technology in the classroom. As she explained, she thought she needed glasses because her vision “would always go in and out of focus,” and she didn’t understand why. Thais went on to go to an eye doctor who said her vision had no real problems, but she was experiencing these lapses of sight due to computer screens. “It’s not my focus, it’s my tear ducts. So, my tear ducts are damaged from, like, looking at a screen so much,” Thais said. The doctor then recommended that she should spend less time working on a computer and instead complete her work on paper, to which she had to reply along the lines of, “Well, the change is like it’s not optional. [Working mainly on computers] is a thing now.” Thais realizes there is a risk by going against doctor’s orders by continuing to work on computers every day, but at this point, many of us have no choice. With problems such as Thais’ coming to light in the technological age, it makes sense for students, teachers, and parents alike to feel a certain degree of worry at the unknown health consequences they can present in the future.
Another flaw of technology-integrated academics are the struggles for those who don’t always have access to technology to complete their schoolwork. Their lack of connection can be caused by a variety of reasons. For example, juniors and seniors did not receive Chromebooks this year, and certain students without the luxury of having these laptops may not have the financial stability to purchase a computer of their own to keep up with the ever-changing, technology-savvy school curriculum.
Senior Carly Donovich understands the issue of not having a Chromebook readily available to her. She is currently a cast member of the fall play, A Piece of My Heart, and for her, as the upcoming show holds daily practices that can run until 9 PM, “It’s kind of hard when I stay after school for play and I have homework online that I can’t do.” Annie Targosz, who is in the play as well, along with other extracurricular activities such as the Speech Team, said, “I like having paper so then if I’m just trying to do something after school, I can pull it right out of my backpack and do it right there.”As a solution to these problems, Carly suggested, “I think that there should be some kind of renting system and, like, if you break it, you pay for it, but you can rent it for a day.” For students in similar tough situations due to extracurriculars or being unable to have a computer at home for easy access to homework, this can be a viable solution, as school work does not appear to be going back to always being handwritten anywhere along the horizon.
In the end, us students might not all meet the stereotypes of those speaking of our generation, and technology in being used in school as “the new way to work” can be a double edged sword. But, as Carly concluded, “I know a lot of our classes are more reliant on technology but I don’t think that work ethic has changed in a lot of people, and to say that [the way we work now] is worse because of technology is wrong.” The pace at which schools appear to be adapting the use of devices such as Macs, iPads, and Chromebooks does not appear to be slowing down anytime soon, so might as well just ride the wave, surf the Internet with all of its vices and virtues, and hope not to wipe out.