Technology can be incredibly useful when integrated into our lives (think UT’s new Gmail accounts). It is not, however, always advantageous in a learning environment.
For example, Facebook has become essential in our social lives, but at the same time it can be detrimental to our academic lives. Granted, Facebook is one of the easiest ways to get in contact with another student, and it can be incredibly useful for trading class notes, scheduling meetings and planning parties. Yet, it is precisely that ease of contact that makes Facebook so dangerous to a student’s productivity.
In our society it is already nearly impossible to escape one’s social circle, and Facebook only adds to this constant contact that is often at the forefront of our minds. Having unlimited contact with one another, while useful when we need it, detracts from a good learning environment. In a study done by Houghton Mifflin, 44 percent of college students admitted to the computer being their distraction of choice. The computer is not a minor distraction either; the same study showed that students spent and average of 19.2 hours a week on the web. If you are incessantly thinking about what is going on with your friends and refreshing your Facebook page, then you’re probably not absorbing your professors’ lectures.
Not only is Facebook detrimental to your attention span in class, it also wastes time. In fact, a study done by Psychology Today concluded that 47 percent of online time is spent procrastinating. Students are in college to learn, not to sit in class with the appearance of being dedicated students when their focus is trained on a conversation with a friend or the newest game on Facebook.
The love affair that we have with technology is always with the latest and greatest in innovations, with everyone trying to get a leg up in the competition. Currently, University IT staff are searching for a replacement for Blackboard that will allow for easy, more reliable file transfer and faster communication. Do these requirements sound familiar? Facebook maybe? Many places are already trying to synchronize their electronic communications, including jumping on the social network bandwagon. Should UT? Although it would be potentially useful to have access to professors, assignments, friends and grades all on one website, people need to differentiate between work and play.
While we continue to refine our relationship to technology, it is necessary to learn separation. Facebook does not belong in the classroom.