To say that technology — specifically computers and smartphones — has altered society throughout the past decade is an understatement. Technology has changed how we market, shop and get and share our news. It’s even changed how we learn.
Why has the education system not adapted to technology? Schools shouldn’t continue to emphasize the memorization of information because most students carry digital encyclopedias in their pockets.
In recent years, many schools across the United States have attempted to better incorporate new technology into the classroom. SMART Boards, laptops and now even iPads or tablets are becoming commonplace in school systems.
Because they believe updated technology is the key to students’ success, state and federal governments offer special grants to schools that promise to use the money on new technology.
While the government and some schools’ attempts to include new technologies is admirable and a step in the right direction, the better solution is actually to adapt the entire education system to the new technology.
In 2008, technology writer Nicholas Carr’s article “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” was published in The Atlantic and its view on the effect of technology on our brains and our society generated ripples in the psychology community.
Carr argues that the prevalence of smartphones and Internet access is actually changing how our brains function. Some psychologists have supported Carr’s opinion, offering research studies showing how technology alters children’s attention and the manner in which they process information.
Others, like Harvard University’s Steven Pinker, argue that technology always generates a new sense of panic and that the reality is technology cannot change the way our brains work.
Whether the technology is actually altering how our brain operates is debatable, but all sides of the debate acknowledge one truth: We live in an era in which everyone has near constant access to information on the Internet. This is why the education system needs to adapt to technology and to the Internet, specifically and not the other way around.
The education system focuses on teaching students facts. From my own school experience, I remember studying requiring a lot of memorizing. I memorized a chunk of the periodic table, 50 important Supreme Court cases from history, the characters and their roles in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter,” major battles in the Revolutionary War, the process of mitosis as well as many other facts I could have — and can still — find easily on the Internet.
In the past, memorizing information was important because analysis requires information to analyze. Our parents’ generation did not have easy access to computers and smart phones, so memorizing important information was a lot more efficient.
Today is different. Memorization of important information is no longer the most efficient route in school because of the ease of access. Why should students devote hours and hours memorizing the Krebs cycle if they can simply find a diagram and explanation online? Memorizing the cycle would only be useful to students who intend to enter a biology-related occupation, and those students will likely memorize the process anyway because they will use it frequently.
By shifting the primary focus away from the memorization of information, education can emphasize understanding, analysis and application more. While information can change and be presented differently throughout our lives, the process of critically analyzing and applying analysis will always be useful.
My experience as an English literature major at Elon has been incredibly valuable, but I do not remember every detail of all the books I have read. I can’t remember the last time I spent hours holed up in my room trying to memorize something I needed to know for a test or exam.
What I do remember is spending hours analyzing various books and other sources of information, forming a conclusion and presenting my findings through writing and presentations. So far, I haven’t needed to know all the characters in Orwell’s “1984,” but the process I used to analyze it has been invaluable and likely will continue to be.