Digital Distractions

funny-old-woman-internet-computer-mail1

I’ll be honest, the first time I read this article I thought I was reading a Fox News op-ed meant to scare parents and old people into confiscating their children’s electronic devices (click here to see what I mean). Even the title of the article sort of lets the reader know what exactly this piece is trying to accomplish. After a couple more reads, I put enough of my skepticism aside to realize that even though I kind of disagree with what was said in the article, the author does make some solid points here and there.

The subject of the article, Vishal, is an aspiring 17-year-old filmmaker who struggles in his core classes in school. He is referred to as a “kid caught between two worlds… one that is virtual and one with real-life demands” (Richtel 2). In my opinion, Vishal is the prime example of a person who exhibits different lanes of intelligence. While he may not be excellent at Algebra II or economics, Vishal clearly shows passion in the art of filmmaking. He even says himself that at one time he “[spent] two hours to get a few seconds just right” (7). Just as I don’t think that it’s right for people to blame anvils for the poor school performance of an aspiring welder, I don’t think it’s right for people to blame digital technology entirely for the failures of an aspiring filmmaker like Vishal.

There were certain points in the article that had me nodding my head in agreement. For example, when Sam Crocker, Vishal’s friend, noted that his frequent use of social media might be a factor in his reduced attention span, I totally resonated with that. As an avid user of various types of social media, I have definitely seen a decline in my attention span as a result of the rapid influx of bits and pieces of information. Furthermore, I think the point made by Dr. Rich was the most important in my opinion. He suggests that young ones should not try and completely deprive themselves of their devices, but rather achieve an even balance in which they can enjoy the amazing things that the Internet has to offer while maintaining a good head on their shoulders academically and socially.

Dr. Rich’s point is the most important because the effect that technology has on people is almost always on the individual. If you are the type of person to get distracted easily, then of course it’s easy to be led astray from daily homework assignments when you have YouTube of Facebook just a couple of clicks away. Whether or not you “fail in life” because of technology-related distractions is ultimately up to the individual. Allison Miller, a 14-year-old girl mentioned in the article, attests that sometimes she’ll forget to do homework because she’s too caught up in her texting. To me, that’s a clear sign of a problem. Not that every single kid with a phone is going to end up like Allison, but those who are like Allison are more likely to be caught up in the endless cycle of texting and browsing if given instant access to a smartphone. The relationship between an individual’s unique quirks and personality traits and the distracting nature of digital technology mediums is a broad spectrum; finding that balance that makes your lifestyle the healthiest is the key.

This video encompasses a good portion of this article

Advertisements
Digital Distractions

Does Wikipedia Suck?

I agree, we can’t ignore the scale at which digital technologies has proliferated. Even though Cathy Davidson openly admits to a very strong bias in favor of more digital technology, I think she makes several strong points. For one, the edit-as-you-please characterization of Wikipedia is often blown out of proportion. More often than not, when you go to your desired Wikipedia page, you’ll find the information that you were looking for. It’s not like an article about George Washington would say that he led the American colonies to victory with battalions of tanks and dinosaurs.

Something that Davidson mentioned that personally struck a chord with me was her reference to Pokémon. I am a huge fan of this game series; it was a significant part of my childhood and it still is today, as I play it competitively on a regular basis. I can attest to Davidson’s claim that Pokémon is a game that fosters “creativity and remarkable manual dexterity” (168). At least from a competitive aspect, I see Pokémon as a game that is sort of similar to chess. Lots of predictions, assumptions, and calculations are made in your typical battle. To relate to the article’s core focus, the competitive Pokémon battling scene even has its own version of Wikipedia. Smogon, which is actually the German name for the Pokémon Koffing, is an encyclopedia/database/forum/everything-you-can-imagine-about-competitive-Pokémon-thing. Here, you can find entries on all 721 Pokémon, their strengths and weaknesses, potential movesets, and their place in the metagame (refers to any aspect of strategy that involves thinking about what your opponent is thinking you are thinking). Much like Wikipedia, it is very much user-oriented and its entries encourage the community to contribute.

Smogon demonstrates not only the influence of digital technologies, but also their relevance and importance. I think it is safe to say that Smogon would probably not exist in hardcopy form. I can’t think of many publishing companies that would be willing to market a product that is as comprehensive as Smogon’s database that appeals to such a small niche demographic. After all, the Pokémon games have always existed exclusively through a digital medium. Because of the manner in which popular culture exists in the age of the Internet, digital mediums are ubiquitous and inescapable. This is great because the single most important virtue of the Internet is its accessibility. The idea of having the whole world at your fingertips is quite literally true. In the case of Pokemon, I can find as much information I want on Pikachu, Charmander, or Squirtle. The Internet’s accessibility benefits those who seek entertainment but also those who seek knowledge. Referring back to Davidson, communities like those found on Wikipedia are “devoted to a common good – the life of the intellect” (167). While I do think that the word intellect is a tad bit too strong in this case, the core principle of this statement remains true. Wikipedia solely exists to share knowledge and it does an excellent job at doing that. As it exists today, Wikipedia and other mediums like it allow Internet users from all across the world to gather together and discuss ideas in a way that simply could not be done without digital technology. Bookworms can keep their scholarly articles and encyclopedic tomes; I think the rest of us will be fine.

The Pokémon Koffing, Smogon’s namesake:1502780

A sample entry in Smogon’s database, featuring none other than Pokémon’s mascot itself

 

Does Wikipedia Suck?

The Life We Can Only Hope For

 

Click the link to watch a video of people falling due to them being distracted by their phones!

When Texting While Walking Goes Wrong

At this day in age people have a huge attachment to their technology. You can see people walking down the streets with their face glued to their phones or even texting when driving. There have been videos of people falling or crashing into someone like in the video above because of how attached they atechre to technology. I for one am guilty of this. My phone is like my baby. Although as sad as that sounds most people can relate to me. Smart phones and technological devices are created to make our lives easier yet they make our lives more difficult. We grow a dependency on our devices. For example, our phones are made to help us and make our lives more efficient, yet they disconnect us from whats really going on around us. Most teenagers even adults can’t have a real life conversation in person because they’d rather text a person then have a conversation face to face. The technology we own requires our full attention. While in the movie Her directed by Spike Jones technology is integrated in to life so seamlessly. This is the life we need. When watching movies that are placed in the future we see such complicated technology, yet “Her” shows us that our future is supposed to be simplistic. “Technology could fade into the background, integrate more seamlessly” says Kyle Vanhemert. That’s the future he sees for us. Technology is supposed to make our lives easier yet it just causes more complications.

Simplicity is the future, but our so called “advancements” are holding us back. We are forced to give attention to these objects that have become such a huge part of our lives, have caused horrible habits to society. Technology has been the fault to majors accidents causing injury even death. Due to distracted driving such as texting 11 teens die everyday (edgarsnyder.com). The following link can give you some insight on the severeness of technology in how it distracts us.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/texting-and-driving-minnesota-teen-kills-father-and-daughter/

The future that Jones sees is a future where you wouldn’t be distracted by a phone because the phone wouldn’t be a huge part of peoples life. In  article on Her, he points out “Theo’s phone in the film is just that–a handsome hinged device that looks more like an art deco cigarette case than an iPhone. He uses it far less frequently than we use our smartphones today; it’s functional, but it’s not ubiquitous…gadgets don’t need to scream their sophistication–a future where technology has progressed to the point that it doesn’t need to look like technology.” In the future the smart phone is no longer a precious object like it is in 2016. It can be apart of our lives but it will not over our lives like it is now. That is the life that i want to see for us, personally. It sounds too good to be true, unfortunately this future, although a better solution to our distraction problems, will probably not happen. Multimillion dollar companies depend on a customers dependency on their products to continue to sell their products and make money. I can only hope that one day technology will integrate into the background of our lives and save us from the distractions we deal with today to have a less distractive tomorrow.

Sources

https://www.edgarsnyder.com/car-accident/cause-of-accident/cell-phone/cell-phone-statistics.html

Written by: Elena Carrasquillo

The Life We Can Only Hope For

Digital Effect

Whenever I am in need of finding brief summaries, concepts or whenever I need general information one of the sites I tend to consult is wikipedia, the bane of high school and college professors in America. Throughout my educational history I’ve been drilled to believe that wikipedia entries ooze inaccurate and false information, that it is not a reliable or valid site to get concrete facts, and that in general it shouldn’t be used to enrich my education, but from my experience it is the opposite. If not for wikipedia I would lack a great deal of knowledge about culture, the arts and life in general. Granted, this knowledge includes things like how many people died from coconut impacts and the buttered cat paradox, but this knowledge also presents itself in the form of fascinating concepts that I would have never been exposed to if not for wikipedia. When I’m bored I like to play a game with wikipedia where I start at a random article and keep clicking links until I stumble upon an article that completely deviates from the original topic. It can go on for hours and along the journey I learn about various subjects. Concepts I’ve learned like the tesseract (a 4-dimensional analog of the cube used to explain the 4th dimension) or aspects of culture like the cat’s cradle aren’t things that fit the common core of education in America. Wikipedia provides a quick, easily accessible reference for virtually ever topic. The point that I want to emphasize is that wikipedia has a profound impact on education, and for universities like Middleburg to ban wikipedia is not only doing a disservice to the students, but it is also doing a disservice to one of the primary goals of higher education which is to expose students to the different methods of obtaining information and also to teach them to be resourceful in gathering that information.

6947381-man-standing-on-books.jpg

A lot of times when I’m reading a text book or an article the author may use very unnatural or unnecessary words and metaphors to explain an idea and I often find myself wishing that I could get a more simplified version that explained things very neatly and got straight to the point. This is another beautiful feature of wikipedia. It allows people to rephrase or edit certain articles and this is especially useful for entries that are weighted down by bothersome filler. Scholarly articles, while very informative, may not be written by the most talented writers and the information can be hard to fully understand. Wikipedia users could simplify the subject of the articles using the original scholar article as a reference and present the information in a manner that is easily understandable. I mentioned earlier that I learned about the 4th dimension from wikipedia and that is an exceptionally hard subject. Explaining the idea of a tesseract could that pages but the first sentence in wikipedia says “In geometry, the tesseract is the four-dimensional analog of the cube; the tesseract is to the cube as the cube is to the square.” It is concise and uncomplicated to the casual onlooker.

Most of the members of wikipedia don’t want to spread misinformation. A strong community has been built around the site, and many of these people are devoted to educating the world as much as possible. Wikipedia is one of the most influential contributors to modern education, but often it isn’t seen as such because of the implication that some random person online wants to feel like a scholar and posts articles about various topics. Since it’s free and open to the public there are inevitably going to be some who want to ruin its credibility, but in order to create a network as vast and open as wikipedia, that is a fault that needs to be accepted. There is the edit feature however so if there is faulty information it can always be erased or written over.

The incredible information and insight wikipedia gives should not be overlooked because of the credibility of the articles. Most of the time they are cited and use references, and if not, wikipedia could be used as a springboard to spark thought. It’s an extremely useful resource that can fill in the blanks left behind by standard education.

Digital Effect

Digital distractions

Children of the modern age have a visible obsession for technology. Teens walk through busy streets with their heads buried in their phones, most social interaction has shifted to texting and instant messaging on Facebook and twitter, and when they retreat to their homes at the end of the day they play video games, watch Netflix or spend hours surfing the web. This need to be constantly stimulated has been embedded in American culture and it is something that starts at a very young age.

The brains of teenagers have been wired to consistently want stimulation. As Michael Rich put it “Their brains are rewarded not for staying on task but for jumping to the next thing.”The ability to focus has been replaced with the ability to multitask, but the degree to which one must focus on tasks is a skill that is crucial in order to do well in America’s education system. In some aspects of school multitasking can be useful, but it doesn’t allow the student to give their one-hundred percent best effort when concentrating on a specific task like reading a book. Instead their focus would be divided, making them devote parts of their attention to the book and parts of their attention to another task. This diminishes the quality of both tasks, resulting in inadequate work. The exposure many children have to digital technology at a young age could lead them to having this disadvantage in school. Students like Vishal Singh struggle with balancing his love for technology and the need to do well in school because the two often clash and usually the technology wins. Kids and teenagers getting distracted is not a new thing and it has been an issue since the dawn of man kind, but technology makes the temptation to be distracted more inviting and rewarding.

gif

Why strain my eyes for hours reading dull material when I can play a game that teleports me to a new world? Why write my essay when a new season of Sherlock came out on Netflix? These are questions that are asked subconsciously and the will to resist these temptations must be strong. A common solution to this that many students use is to switch back and forth between assignments and pleasure, or again, to multitask. This is a strategy that I too as an adult am guilty of, and speaking from experience it is a very inefficient method of approaching tasks. The issue of being tempted is strong with teens and children who grew up with technology but the issue is also prevalent in adults, specifically those who did not grow up with a lot of digital technology. My Father often chooses to watch tv instead of other tasks, so it just goes to show that temptation reaches all ages but it is much stronger in children.

image

Digital technology and it’s presence in teens and children is something that is not going to go away and schools should make efforts to adapt to it by the implementation of things like iPads and other various digital technologies, or changing school hours to follow the general trend of students staying up late to use the computer. Digital technology is a core part of American culture and it’s going to be around for a while.

Digital distractions

Learning in the 21st Century

Matt Richtel, in writing an article for the New York times, gave me an itch somewhere, a hunch, that all of the educational problems documented in the article are misattributed, granted, for rational reasons. Throughout reading what Richtel got to say, all I could think about was the quality of the American education system, as opposed to the qualities of the lives and work ethics of those who were documented in the writing.

The tales of Vishal in particular, amongst some of the other likeminded to students at the high school, seem to be indicative of much larger problems with American education: students should be engage completely in things they enjoy, not waste time with things that don’t seem to immediately connect to something they enjoy. This idea really hit me when Richtel describes Vishal’s passions for filmmaking, as well as Geoff Diesel’s audio production class.

In the latter example, when it’s written that Diesel’s class is made of mostly at-risk students, this should be instantaneously evocative of a revelation; kids always want to learn about something, but students want to learn about something that pertains to their interests. Learning doesn’t go out of style, where curricula and teaching methods certainly do.

Ms. Blondel, Vishal’s English IV teacher, says “You can’t become a good writer by watching YouTube, texting and emailing a bunch of abbreviations.” This line of thinking is something I have to disagree with. Learning is all a matter of exposure, who you spend your time with, and how you choose to use the information you are given.

In regards to talking, texting an emailing, again, it’s all about exposure. Who you talk to and surround yourself with, in combination of the prerogative to speak using common English versus texting-speak and lingo, decide how one’s vernacular will evolve or devolve over time. Even then, the change in language is ultimately subjective, and another conversation all together.

Ms. Blondel’s comment about YouTube seems to be completely uninformed and solely based off of stereotypes about media on the internet, perpetuating the idea that all the media on such a website consist of vapid videos about cute animals. Frankly, YouTube can be a medium to deliver entertainment of various subjective qualities, and pure useful information for all sorts of curious and inspired individuals. From my personal experiences, YouTubers have the potential to be role-models, intellectuals, scholars, and friendly faces you can go to for comfort, or any combination of the above; not simply means to the end of instant-gratification. The same can be said of any medium, including TV and video games. There are hidden depths to entertainment and media, some that easily be mistaken for wasted space in the digital world. Whether it be a man who explores the humanistic elements of video games, or someone who teaches how to film and edit movies for the likes of Vishal, YouTube and other video sharing sites are beyond useful and meaningful for people all over the world, regardless of what their grades in school may say. Those grades, some would argue, are ultimately superficial.

Adapting to the technology and cyber-driven worlds we live today is a scary thought to many people, particularly those of the older, less accustomed generations as opposed to the younger ones who have a pre-disposition to contemporary technologies. However, this change functions more as a challenge to revitalize now obsolete methods of teaching that will accelerate the interests of the next generation even faster than those inspired in the last one. It’s worth noting that the subject of using modern technologies in innovative ways has been touched upon by people throughout the world, even in places on YouTube. This just goes to show how much less tech-inclined individuals need to be reevaluated for modern tendencies.

The power of multimedia websites like Youtube are more powerful than some less-informed individuals would have you believe. I don’t mean to sound rude either, but it makes a lot of sense when it’s given thought and some non-biased exploration of topics and content. These tools will surely excel education, and not drag it down.

Learning in the 21st Century

Wikipedia and Tangential Learning

Growing up in the age of information, it’s fairly obvious that I grew up in a time where research is fairly easy to do, relatively speaking, compared to the past. The internet has redefined the way people learn about practically anything; no disciplines have been left to rot because of the internet, and in fact, new technologies have allowed new disciplines to come forth into the spotlight.

Cathy Davidson and I seem to share similar beliefs about a controversial aspect of the teaching capabilities of the internet. The ubiquitous website, Wikipedia, has “threatened the sanctity of scholarly research” in eyes of educative administrators; heavens forbid research become too easy. Davidson and I share the sentiment that Wikipedia isn’t all that bad though, mostly on the ideas printed sources and their legitimacy can also be questioned, and that Wikipedia is fascinating for myriad reasons: not only is the website a nexus for well-learned individuals to share their knowledge about anything, but the nature of the online encyclopedia is primed to propagate tangential learning, a self-teaching method that provokes itself when the learner is pre-exposed to the content through something they already enjoy, like the internet or video games.

Continue reading “Wikipedia and Tangential Learning”

Wikipedia and Tangential Learning