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On technology, a response to Denise Nickerson

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By Janie Frank 

Staff Writer 

opinions.asp@gmail.com 

In the Oct. 1 issue of the Albany Student Press, staff writer Denise Nickerson wrote about a 20th century obsession with technology. She said, “Today, technology thinks for us, plans for us, works for us,” and asked, “What has happened to independent thinking?”

Has independent thinking disappeared? Is technology truly ruining the American people? Nickerson says, “Today, many students have lost their ability to think independently due to technology.” Unfortunately, she offers no proof to support this statement. In my opinion, we still think independently. In fact, technology has done a lot to support us in thinking even more independently than ever before. We now have the ability to easily obtain more information and therefore form more educated opinions.

Nickerson also argues, “Cell phones and lap tops have not only prioritized and organized our lives, they have become our main priority.” Is this bad? Our various devices do help our lives become more organized, as Nickerson said, by allowing us to set alarms so we never miss an appointment, copy down all our assignments into handheld phone so that we are never late turning one in, and can tell us exactly what time it is so we’re never late to an event. Of course something that fits in the palm of our hand that can do all of this would become a main priority. Why is that a bad thing?

Nickerson later argues that our phones are bad because, as students, we tend to focus more on them then our class work. But there will always be distractions, whether they are digital or not. You could just as well get caught up reading a book, cleaning the house, or playing a game of basketball. Distractions have been present before the light bulb was invented and they will continue to affect our lives even if we got rid of all out electronic devices.

At the end of her article, Nickerson says, “This could mean… holding face-to-face conversations/over the phone conversations rather than just texting all the time.” Sure, you’re bringing it back a step but talking on the phone is still making use of technology. Should we become even more technology-resistant and send telegraphs to each other? Perhaps we should just write letters to each other with quills and have someone deliver these messages while travelling on the back of a mule. That’s taking it too far? Clearly, technology is a good thing.

In fact, technology is such a good and important thing that the era we are living in now has been dubbed the Information Age by many. A 2010 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that, on average, Americans between the ages of eight and 18 spend at least seven and a half hours per day consuming media. Sure, this number may seem high until you start to think about what that means. “Consuming media” covers everything from listening to music and playing video games to surfing the web and reading books online. Our increase of media consumption, something countless people are concerned about, only reflects the increase of information that Americans are experiencing today. On Sept. 17, 2013, in an article for The Week entitled, “Does Social Media Makes us Smarter?” Monica Nickelsburg argued, “Young people spend far more time consuming new information, honing verbal concision, and interacting with a diverse audience than they have at any point in history.”

Another reason, closely related to information, technology is necessary is that of education. The Sloan Consortium reported that over 6.1 million students took at least one online class in the fall of 2010.

The same report stated, “Thirty-one percent of higher education students now take at least one course online.” For people whose schedules, finances, or anxieties may not allow them to attend a class in person, online courses are a blessing. However, online college courses aren’t the only form of education available on the internet.

Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, are essentially filmed classes that cover an extremely broad range of topics and are easily accessible for anyone with internet access. These are helpful for people of any age who want to learn something new. In my personal life, KhanAcademy, a free website that offers more than 2,400 videos to anyone who is interested in watching them, was the reason I passed chemistry in 11th grade.

Finally, technology is necessary because of its availability. The internet cannot be easily or completely regulated no matter how hard one may try. There will always be information for anyone who is willing to look for it.

In his article from July 22, 2013, “The Government’s Porn Block is Being Laughed at by the Tech Generation,” Alex MacDonald from The Backbencher says, “It is naïve that the government believes it can regulate the internet; it is far too open to ever be curtailed.”

Yes, we are using more technology. Yes, we are relying upon it as a steady source of information and knowledge. No, this is not going to cause the downfall or our society. No, this in no way represents an end to independent thinking.

Denise Nickerson says, “It’s scary how technology has transformed the way we think.” Sure, it is scary. But it’s also wonderful, inspiring, and spectacular. Technology is always changing and, because of that, so are we.

Take advantage of the amazing technology available to you – go learn something new, take a college course, or download a book written three hundred years ago.

The world is open to you. All you have to do is click on your web browser.

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