Electronic devices help and hinder student learning


As technology becomes more accessible through smartphones, tablets and computers, reliance on these devices may cause students to miss out on developing important skills.

Instructors across campus have differing opinions about technology. Some professors have their students place all devices at the front of the classroom before taking any tests, while some do not allow students to use their technology to take notes and others do not care if they do.

Technology is a great tool for students to use. It provides services such as searchable e-books, easy contact with instructors and search engines for research. However, it also provides students with distractions both inside and outside the classroom with texting, Facebook, games and Twitter.

Jack Gambill, an accounting lecturer at EWU, said he is concerned about student reliance upon technology for problem solving.

“They rely too heavy on [technology] rather than trying to think out the problems … you need to think about it and try to understand it.”

EWU computer science department senior lecturer Stu Steiner has the same opinion. “It is so accessible that students don’t try and figure out the problem. They have a tendency to try and take the shortcut way and just Google the answer.”

Students using technology to find answers instead of trying to figure the answer out themselves is a common theme when it comes to technology and the classroom. Gambill said his primary concern is that student reliance upon technology may contribute to easier methods of academic dishonesty.

EWU sophomore Marissa Freeman said, “I think [students] would learn more if they actually went back and read the material.”

The question is: How far is too far? At what point is it not good to use technology? A common issue among instructors at EWU is the issue of smartphones in class. Whether it is used for texting, Facebook or tweeting, it is taking away from the important information instructors are trying to teach students.

Students have many distractions in the classroom when it comes to technology. However, that does not necessarily make technology bad, according to Dennis Anderson, EWU Director in Psychology. “There is always the opportunity to not pay attention. … Ultimately it comes down to the student’s choice,” Anderson said.

That is also what Freeman thought. “[Students] should actively be thinking, ‘I can’t have my phone out. I need to sit and listen and be able to live without it for 50 minutes while the teacher is talking. … I think it is [the students] responsibility.”

While technology offers a lot of useful tools to both students and professors, it does not replace studying or time in the classroom.

“If you want to really learn, I think technology is great, but you have to put in the effort,” said Gambill. “When you walk out of this university, [employers] are going to expect you to know [the material]. You may not be able to Google it.”