Put your pen away and focus on your laptop!

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As students in university we are all aware of some of the requirements necessary in order to succeed in life such as we must have a computer, we must come to class prepared to take notes on our computers, we must access information necessary about our courses and be prepared…through our computers. To share a little bit about my own university learning experiences I would like to reflect upon memories that I had while transitioning from high school to university. Most of my educational memories in high school involve my textbooks sitting in my locker for 7 months and me carrying 2 giant binders around for each day that I would have certain classes. I had a pencil case and a binder with paper. That is all. My phone would be deep in my bag due to the very strict teachers with absolutely no phone tolerance. I had a desktop computer at home and would use it for English reports or any sort of reports that were strictly language oriented. In grade 10, my mom took away my beloved desktop computer and bought me an over sized Toshiba laptop. I had an okay relationship with my laptop until I reached university.

Flash forward; first day of university, I take my Five Star blue notebook to class complemented by my series of colourful pens to “encourage” me to write down lecture notes. As I walked in I was surprised at the amount of bitten apples facing the front of the class room. I may have been the only person without a computer. I went back to my residence and realized I can’t live like this. I can’t just take a notebook to class… so I took my Toshiba. I hated that Toshiba and tried my hardest to break it, and here is why. 1. It was literally the biggest computer made by the brand, 2. It had a broken battery at this point and would have to be connected to a plug at all times, and last but definitely not least, it would never, ever break. This computer was sat on, thrown, dropped and not a scratch or dent appeared (side note: you want a durable computer, you should consider a Toshiba.) By the end of the year I realized I was in dire need of a working laptop for class purposes. My lectures were all online; by not bringing a laptop to class I would be wasting hundreds of papers that would cover lecture notes and slides and run the risk of losing them. If I needed to look up definitions to things I would have to wait until I got home which is ridiculous to everyone in my generation today. And most importantly, I was insanely jealous of those who could tune out professors by going on Facebook or watching TV shows in the middle of class. If only professors were aware of what was actually occurring on the other side of that innocent bitten apple screen. (Side note: last year I saw a girl Skype-ing her boyfriend during a calculus lecture, the lecture was only 50 minutes long…)

While searching for experiments and research on the subject of technology in classrooms, more specifically laptops, I came to the realization that it is in fact a pretty controversial topic . Depending on the person, taking into consideration his/her experiences, most people have come up with their own conclusions regarding their own research done on the topic; this is because of the large amount of opinions, some that are statistically supported and some that are not, that float around the World Wide Web. I tried searching the pros and the cons of this, not considering my personal side of the arguments and keeping completely neutral. I found a series of articles that prove, statistically, how the existence of laptops in classrooms benefit students and professors/teachers alike, however I also came across articles that find laptops in classrooms to be distracting leading to lower grades than those who do not bring laptops to classrooms and lectures. Keeping impartial I would like to discuss a series of these opinions and research that have been conducted.

Technology use in class is beneficial

A re-occurring argument for the benefits of laptop use in classrooms is the reduction in time that is originally spent by students and teachers. Most students are faster type-rs than they are writers. By using laptops they are more likely to speed through the recording of important lecture points and would be less likely to disregard key information given by teachers or professors. Providing technology also assists in creating an interactive environment. My experience during my accounting class is a great example of this. During my class our teacher introduced Top Hat Monocle. Top Hat Monocle is an interactive learning experience that occurs during lectures. After a given lesson was taught to the class our professor would “open” up a question on the Top Hat Monocle website where each student would have an account and also had a choice of connecting this account to his/her phone. Students had a choice of either texting their answer to the number connected to that course or they could simply answer the question via the website. This made life easy for many teachers and students alike. Instead of collecting notes and papers from as many as 400 students to be marked by TAs, the computer would simply complete this process. The answer would be reveled immediately after the question was closed and discussion would commence. This concept really helped the kids interact with their professor where students took an interest because they were interacting with other students in the answer process where they aimed to get the question correct. Top Hat Monocle accounted for 20% of our final grade. The fact that it held a large load of our overall mark would encourage many students to attend lectures in order to gain that 20% that could really raise their grade in the end. Getting forced to attend lectures can be very beneficial and certainly will pay off in overall grade. The use of the Internet in classrooms also increases motivation. Student satisfaction can easily increase by immediate feedback given by teachers and can also motivate students to strive to be good and to achieve better. The idea of technology in classrooms is not only relevant to university students but now many classrooms from elementary school all throughout high school have found that technology can be very beneficial and actually aid in learning. A great argument that is made is that kid in the same classroom are not all necessarily at the same level therefore different students would require a different treatment regarding learning. Studies have proven that technology in classrooms have actually helped to individualize aspects of learning to suit student’s needs. One thing that technology in classrooms has allowed is the diverse learning techniques that actually caters to students based on their educational level and capacity. The video below is a TED Talks video of Jessie Woolley-Wilson who is the inventor DreamBox Learning which is a program that allows kids of different learning levels to learn at their own pace within a classroom.

Technology in classrooms is distracting

Stanford University conducted an experiment in order to observe whether or not laptops aid or damage learning in a classroom setting. The students who participated in the study were asked to provide weekly records of attendance, laptop use and notes on the classroom environment. The results of this survey revealed that the students who used laptops in class spent a great deal of time multitasking rather than focusing on the lecture materials therefore showing a significantly higher level of distraction not only to themselves but to those around them. The use of laptops was also negatively related to a series of measures on student learning such as self-reported comprehension of the lecture material and finally overall course performance.  With solid arguments being made against laptop use in class, this has led to an increasing amount of professors across Canada and the US to ban laptop use during class. Many professors have found the results of laptop use in classrooms to be somewhat offensive of their time and efforts spent trying to teach a class. Other professors argue that if a student chooses not to listen to a certain lecture, keeping in mind that he/she is of no distraction to others, then it is their choice and they can do so. I know in my experience with having laptops in classrooms it has hindered my ability to focus and learn by a large amount. This is certainly a choice by students, however most universities and classrooms provide WiFi to classrooms and lecture halls which makes it that much harder to focus on the lectures instead of checking Facebook, Twitter, checking emails, or even a possibility that students just search up random things because they do not want to listen to lecture materials. I know I would personally rather check online shopping websites during lectures, with a belief that I can listen to the lecture and focus my eyes on the website. But the many covert distractions that come along with any type of online activity can’t be eliminated unless laptops and the mediums in which we use to access these websites are taken away. The graph below is the result of a study done  by York University that shows that the use of laptops, which require multitasking, in a classroom actually hinders learning and results in a lower final grade.

Laptop Multitasking Hinders Classroom Learning for Both Users an

My personal opinion on the matter is that technology use, specifically laptop use in classrooms heavily relies on the person. I, personally, do not have the mental capacity to sit in a lecture hall with a laptop and deny myself the access to websites. So when I started second year of university I started to just take my notebook because I was getting heavily distracted during lectures. At some point I got rid of my Facebook for a good year so I could focus on materials that are important to my education. On the other hand, I also know people who are very comfortable taking laptops to classrooms and focusing on lecture materials without allowing themselves to drift onto unnecessary websites. I highly believe that wanting to do well is a choice, with that said,  if students are aware of the negative effects of taking laptops to classrooms and having access to technology then they should, willingly, distance themselves from it and go old school. Sometimes a pen and a piece of paper can do more for your brain than an advanced technological creation.

Is the Internet playing God?

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The internet, the very thing that connects us to the World Wide Web and allows us to have an identity via our computers, tablets, smart phone, and many other devices. It grants us the ability to search for news articles, materials regarding our education and access a long list of data stored in this long and never ending universe that is deemed the internet. Nowadays we seem to be, for the lack  a better word, abusing this right to have access to the internet. Many may be thinking” speak for yourself”, so I surely will. I am a user (has anyone seen Tron?). I am occasionally an abuser. I abuse my time and my energy spent on the internet. Take this very day. I completed a midterm, my smart serve, and started a project for my other class, now you would think hours of being on my computer, searching up answers and providing necessary material for all my work, I would take a break. Do something that is not on my laptop…literally anything. However you, my friend, are wrong. I watched 6 back to back episodes of Shark Tank to enhance my knowledge of my major (yes that is my excuse and I am sticking to it). I got so into it that even when I was starting this blog I was still listening to Kevin O’Leary’s voice telling poor entrepreneurs that their company valuation is absolutely ridiculous.  Pardon me getting into minor details but that is to the extent that I am an abuser. I not only abuse my time, effort, and probably the internet bill but I am physically abusing my body to a point where I can no longer sit and write this. I have to be lying down in bed, making my poor back suffer due to my procrastination skills. Moving on, I would like to give my opinion very bluntly, the internet is controlling our destiny.

I would like to begin with a set of stats. Currently Google has 1.873 trillion searches annually, converting to 5.134 billion daily. There are roughly 7.13 billion people residing on planet earth to date of that digit 2.41 billion people use the internet. That is 34% of the overall population of planet earth. Though to many of you this number may seem smaller than expected, it must be taken into consideration that developing nations do not have the same access that we have to computers and internet alike. I say this from experience. I am Persian and while visiting Iran two years ago I made the most horrible mistake of taking an online course. The internet was so unbelievably slow that without exaggeration I can say that it took a minimum amount of 15 minutes for my Courselink page to load. This was my experience at an Internet Café. At my family’s house the page never loaded. I was forced to drop the course due to my many 0s. From what I hear nowadays the speed has increased (developing nations tend to grow at inconsistent rates), however many websites are blocked off from use due to the political tension and struggle of power that occurs. The country likes to prohibit users from accessing websites which may cause a conflict of interest to the nation and a negative image to foreign countries. Back to Google, the long list of numbers finally translates to a total of 777 searches per internet user on a yearly basis. This is only an average and by no means a representation of one single person.

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How the top developed nations are using the internet.

The internet allows for access to many websites that we tend to use on a daily basis, with 1.1 billion users (still) on Facebook and half a billion users on Twitter. We use these social media websites to not only connect to others but to share personal information with others. In this point and time you do not even need to know what a person’s full name is if you have any other form of information about them. They are likely to have Facebook and if over 21 possibly LinkedIn (225 million users) which makes it possible for anyone to access information about people existing in the World Wide Web. And the sad part is that we allow it. We give permission for our lives to be viewed and the information to be accessible. Why do we do this? The answer to this could be taken from a required article posted for CIS (“Can you really be addicted to the internet?”). Maybe it is that hint of pleasure we get when someone likes our picture or a status that we so carefully thought out to be either funny or insightful or that little hint of human mechanism that wants to be accepted by his/her own kind and social circle. Nevertheless the issue of privacy has increased and Google has tapped into our identity in social media websites. Search your name and most of you are bound to see a picture of yourself on Google Images (unless your actual name is John Smith then there may be a few…or more). This is simply a lack of privacy law providing other users information on you or me or anyone with anything on the web.  The World Wide Web is increasingly becoming a stalkers paradise. The funny thing is that stalking has probably decreased because people have access to everything and it’s like the saying where you only want something because it’s unknown. Nothing is now unknown. No mystery, nor ambiguity.

However, instead of taking a step back to ensure a more private web for users Google has actually prepared a new service called Google Mine which will track information and items of a user and share them with their circle of Google+ friends. This new program will keep you on track to what your friends are doing and sharing so you could be constantly updated. This goes against users’ demand, 79% of which are concerned about privacy of their online identity. With internet giants such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc. there is a huge disconnect between what people are allowing for usage vs. what they want to share. I believe users should have the ability to share information that is available for use without having that information become a process and a source of marketing for huge moguls. Privacy laws should be increased by hands of authorities to limit the use of information by internet powerhouses to be used for advantageous reasons that will be determining the future of the internet for us. Internet moguls can fight back and blame the user allowing the release of information but that would be pretty ignorant. A teenager starting a Facebook account by no means provides an enormous company with POWER to access information in which she is not aware of. As individuals we care about our identity whereas most companies view us as numbers and statistics. There is no emotional involvement for safety purposes because we are all just an atom of something way bigger. When such companies are so in tune with what people want they know exactly how to get them back. Take Instagram for example, it recently introduced the video aspect of the app which could originally be found on Vine. They did this to keep in the market and to further keep the interest of their audience. There will never be a full loss of power by these moguls because they now have access to information and the trends that occur, while users are increased or decreased, and the world has become so public that people express ideas toward this on other websites. Twitter has become a world where people can literally share exactly what they are doing. This is a world where no one is ever shut off. Even when we sleep others are awake doing what we do all day long. So even when we sleep kids, someone is always getting watched and someone is always watching.

The Good, the Bad, and the Completely Useless

robotI’m going to be honest and admit to the good people reading this that I don’t like this evolution of technology going on right now. I just don’t like it. I find remotely creepy and the fact that my phone has a name and speaks back to me just does not rub me the right way. However, I do appreciate my friend Siri when it gives me directions on how to find the nearest Tim Hortons to feed my coffee addiction. Do not be alarmed, I am very well aware of the hypocritical statements that were made just a few seconds ago.

Personally, I will admit to the fact that I like technology when I am in need of it. I like the fact that I can look up an address on Google and do a street-view of the location I will be going to and seeing exactly which house I’m looking for but, but, but, I do not like the fact that my house can be viewed on Google. I feel it to be an invasion of my privacy. When I don’t feel like putting in an effort into the things that I do, I relapse and begin to love my technologically advanced gadgets, I consider Siri my best friend and companion. Needless to say,  when I am in bed and my hand accidentally touches the home button of my phone and I have to listen to a computer generated, robot-human-wannabe speak the words “say a demand” at 3 in the morning(yes I sleep with my phone, right beside me. It has its own pillow), I hate technology. I despise it. I only want it when I need it and crave it but its existence puts a dent in my mood. This is like a societal accepted sort of addiction. There is nothing like it.

Let’s Begin the Good

I can trust most YouTubers have watched the heartfelt video of the woman who was born deaf (featured on Ellen). At age 29 she received an implant that led her to be able to hear for the first time, what most people take for granted everyday. If you haven’t you should definitely check it out. It really is a bittersweet moment.

The reason I was so personally touched by this video is due to the fact that about 3 years ago my mother went to her doctor to get an eye test. This led them to doing more testing on her where they made the discovery that one of the vessels behind her eyes was so weakened that she was going blind. With many laser treatments and home training sessions she began to see better and less blur. I am truly grateful for the creation of such accurate and precise technological devices and experienced its impact on one of the most treasured people in my life. This to me is the highest peak of the important use of technological evolution. The creation of devices which are giving people the opportunity to live the life any human being deserves.

The Bad, the Deadly and just Pure Evil

So, drones. What are drones you ask? They are described as unmanned vehicles flying in the air which are able to pinpoint and kill. Who are these used by you say? Well drones were created in the 1980’s but were not put to significant use until the 2000’s. Most people I have spoken to have never even heard of drones however this term surfaced around the time where US attacked the compound of Bin Laden in Abbottabad that eventually led to Bin Laden’s death. From 2004 to date there has been a maximum estimate of 3,540 casualties (197 of which were children) in Pakistan, and 369 attacks. It should be noted that most of the people killed were innocent civilians going about their day. This is a form of covert war. This is secret, unmanned, emotionless, and careless attacks which is leading to many unnecessary casualties. Imagine holding a gun towards a person and having to kill them. You don’t know them but you see them. You see their emotions and their character. You see their features, how their dressed, their age range, etc. Now imagine you are given a button and you are told that if you press the button someone in this world dies. Much easier right? Well unfortunately, this new technology has taken out most of the guilt of killing people where that man that controlled that drone can sleep at night.

And finally the fun part…Completely Useless Technological Creations

Did you know every 5 minutes mankind thinks of something stupid to discover? Well here are some people that invested time and money into their completely useless but entertaining creations. It can be something as small as applications replication farting noises or apps that specialize in popping pimples. As I was researching for cool things to talk about I realized how many strange things are being created. Honda created an electronic unicycle that you just sit on and it’s a little wider than a normal human being, and it just moves for you.

You can literally be immobile for the rest of your life as long as you have remotely good posture (as seen by the man in the video). Let’s not tell the US about this as their obesity rate may double triple.

Think of the coolest idea ever! I bet this will beat it. Say hello to the Exhaust Burger. This amazing device will take your patties and cook it using just the heat generated from your exhaust fumes. So by the time you drive to your destination you will have made yourself an environmentally friendly meal!

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