Professors embrace technology with caution

Monica Velez

Before Google, the only thing necessary for a road trip was a map. Before search engines, the library was the key to getting 100 percent on a research paper. Before laptops, the only thing needed to take notes was a notebook and pen, and before cellphones there were face-to-face interactions and shaking hands.

Technology is turning into the “go-to” device; slowly people will stop knowing how to read maps, will not find the importance in a library card and will start forgetting the importance of human connection.

Dr. Susanne Lindgren, who has been a biology professor for 18 years at Sacramento State, remembers the time when she was teaching students how to use a computer and now laughs about how students are teaching her.

She has seen the development in technology and how it is able to help connect her to students outside of the classroom, whether it be posting an informative article or giving them classwork when she is absent from class.

However, Lindgren has seen the distraction technology produces in the classroom.

Even though note taking on laptops works for some students, the distractions that come with laptops prevent engagement from students.

“I think that people, although they can become Google smart and utilize the phone to access information, which will actually aid to their learning, sometimes we start to lean on that and we don’t cerebrally engage,” said Lindgren. “And then the second thing is students kind of check out of class, they’re physically in the class but they’re not mentally in the class.”

Similarly, Dr. Doug Rice, an English and film professor for 18 years at Sac State, said students are too dependent on technology, letting technology become a distraction that takes time away from students to think deeply.

“The biggest problem I have with it is that technology teaches you information, it doesn’t teach you how to think, it doesn’t make you complex,” said Rice. “It leads to information so it leads to answers, but it doesn’t deepen their way of asking questions.”

Rice has strictly enforced a no-cellphone policy in class, also not allowing any other form of technology.

If a buzz or ring is heard, he will either un-enroll students from his class or give them a failing grade, with absolutely no exceptions.

“I think what [technology] has done as anti-education is created a bunch of narcissists, and on top of that it’s created this sense that everything should be easy, that there shouldn’t be frustration,” said Rice. “Like it’s not a struggle to learn.”

Like Lindgren, journalism professor Sigrid Bathen allows students to use technology such as tablets or laptops and sees the positives that technology has provided to students, as well as the negative effects.

“If you exclusively use technology for everything that you do in school, you’re not going to have the range of experiences,” said Bathen. “I think that it has helped teaching in the sense that you have vastly expanded resources, it limits because you have less of the one on one.”

Lindgren, Rice and Bathen all agree that technology needs to be used and managed carefully.

Lindgren has seen students take the easy way out for reports and presentations, having to tweak her assignments to make technology work in favor of students.

“I’ve had to change what my assignments are and what our activities are to go with the technology that is available and still in a way that they are learning something, not just grabbing something somebody else learned and spitting it back out,” said Lindgren.

Expanding human connection is another problem technology has posed for society.

“I often wonder if people might be injured walking around looking at their smartphones,” said Bathen. “I think it hampers communication because people aren’t talking to each other, they’re talking through texting and through technological means.”

It is unrealistic to say people should never use technology again, and it is not about taking it completely out of their lives.

“It’s part of our lives, so it’s there, but you control it,” said Rice. “Otherwise it will control you, and my fear is the younger and younger the generation is, technology is exerting more and more control, so you feel that you need to be available at all times and I think that’s going to destroy the soul of human beings.”