Technology bytes

Chronicle Staff

I can hear the gentle purr. Through the corner of my eye, light emanates from the screen, begging me to enter the technological abyss. I find myself trapped within the gravitational pull of my laptop, as it constantly finds new methods to inadvertently plot my demise.

I have tried many a time to minimize my dependency on the computer, but those Microsoft demons are persistent. Ultimately, myriad websites lure me to the monitor. In addition to combating the personal vendettas posed by Mark Zuckerberg, Perez Hilton and Slate Magazine, Harvard-Westlake is, in essence, now encouraging me to remain glued to this wretched machine.

In recent months, a slew of speakers have visited faculty, heavily encouraging the implementation of technology through online forums, educational blogs or online assignments. Students were granted a day off from school, while teachers were lectured by Alan November on the benefits of technology. The cancellation of classes should indicate the significance of the topic to the administration. However, the sudden onslaught of technology applied to schoolwork has the potential to be as dangerous as sticking one’s fingers into an electrical outlet.

I went to November’s website to get a better feel for the topics of last Monday. The company objective reads, “Our professional development consulting services, conferences, online courses, and rich resources are designed to help educators develop their students’ critical thinking and global communication skills.”

A worthy objective, and one that suits the generalization of Harvard-Westlake students. But there is no correlation between the internet and critical thinking. When completing an assignment in an online forum, the applied critical thinking only pertains to the other sources for an answer, not through scouring the depths of one’s brain. With the breadth of the universe at our fingertips, Google or an instant message appear more viable options than the task of thinking. So what do we learn? What do we take away from the assignment as we peruse the answer on Wikipedia? The work is merely a screen. It’s abstract, immaterial.

I next ventured to the school homepage for Moodle, “an interactive online learning community,” to see its impact on classes. The school’s webpage deems Moodle “an online classroom.” Moodle may be supplementary to the 56 courses in the network, but a classroom it is not. The term alone is disrespectful to teachers, who spend hours preparing lessons and teach with fervor. Moodle could potentially hinder their efforts. Although synthetic, Moodle promotes interaction outside the classroom. But a classroom dynamic is irreplaceable. Is it truly possible for one to hone their interpersonal communication skills through a typed message?

The administration has also proposed that by 2009, each student will have his or her own school-sanctioned laptop. Laptops will not be useful in countless courses. Calculus will eternally remain calculus, just as the laws of gravity will not change with a technological breakthrough. When my classmate asked a teacher how laptops would aid his teaching, he replied, “It wouldn’t. It would take away from the lecture, and you would be on Facebook the whole class.”

It’s fair to say that computers serve as teenagers’ primary distraction. Clearly, not everyone is on the cusp of entering Data Processors Anonymous, like me, but computers have evolved from convenience to lifeline, in terms of socialization and now, schoolwork.

The greater influence of technology on our generation will inevitably lead to a greater influence on our studies. Nonetheless, I assert that technological sagacity will not lead to better work ethics, greater convenience or improved comprehension of material.

So as my personal way of “sticking it to the man,” whatever man that might be, my next homework assignment will be completed with reed and papyrus, quill and scroll, pen and paper. I’ll get to that in a few hours. You know, once I get off the computer.