ELECTRONIC devices and school are inextricable. Many schools require that their students own a laptop, some even a tablet. The beauty of electronic devices is that they connect you to the vast world of information out there. I can just sit by my desk, get on my MacBook, and look up a myriad of facts on “velocity,” for instance.
Through Google, the “velocity” search opens up so many entries that I’m spoiled for choice. What is compelling in this first page is a giant box with a definition. Then, Wikipedia presents its “velocity” explanation. Your eyes travel down the page, and you get this wonderful section called “People also ask.” And what do they ask? “What is the difference between speed and velocity?” among three other questions. Click elsewhere, and I get to learn about “vector” and how “speed with direction is velocity.” This is the kind of learning experience you will never get in textbooks: convenience, variety, and speed.
In a recent Geography project, my classmates managed to produce a survey, send it out, collate the responses, conclude our findings—all in just two days. Thanks to technology, specifically an online application called SurveyMonkey with survey templates galore—all of them free, provided our survey participants were less than a hundred people. All we had to do was to pick one that suited our survey, “Who Shops Most.” The effort scored us an “A1,” a feat my classmates and I would possibly not have achieved if we didn’t have the combined support of our MacBooks and handphones (WhatsApp was key in blasting out our survey to 50 of our friends, who then re-blasted them).
For this reason, it is hard for teachers to slam electronic devices as distractions that keep their students away from their studies. However, electronic devices have that reputation for sucking students into hours of unknown entertainment and pleasure. It’s true that games tend to get mindless and addictive. However, let us put a good word for them. There is such a thing called gamification—the application of gaming to activities such as marketing as well as education.
At school, one of my teachers plays Kahoot, a quiz-based game for our social studies class. Imagine the teacher hosting a game show with 28 participants, all of us at the ready with our handphones on hand. “What government agency does this logo represent,” asks one of the MCQ questions.
Within a second, I clicked on the star, next to which was the correct answer. Others clicked on the triangle or the square with different answers. The app goes one step further. It reveals statistics such as: who was the fastest at the beep, who scored the highest (and the lowest), who had the most correct answers, which question bagged the most correct answers. The wonderful thing about this game is that it gets competitive, and best of all, it’s fun.
There are also many other types of online games that promote thinking, both strategic and creative. The ones I like best are the role-playing ones, such as Clash Royale and Lifeline. Without my phone, where can I have access to such high-quality visuals, first-rate game conceptualization?
Get into the world of Lifeline, and you are thrown into a simulated situation where you have to help a girl trapped in an unknown planet, directing her with what you consider to be the most prudent decisions. It’s like mentoring Mark Watney played by Matt Damon in Martian to take the right decisions. Granted, this may not sound like real curriculum work, but should we limit the whole concept of “studies” to just school-related work?
Demonize handphones or iPads or laptops all you want, but there’s no turning back this whole technology clock. It is a reality. And so, what we must learn, us gaming addicts and giddy, non-stop WhatsApp chatters, is moderation. The middle path is good, so is technology, so is my Samsung and my MacBook.
Nathaniel Soo, Secondary Three
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This essay was written in response to the ‘O’ Levels 2015 exam, Question #4:
Do electronic devices, such as tablets or smartphones, help or hinder students in their studies?