When Stuyvesant’s current seniors were freshmen, the iPad didn’t even exist. In the four years that have passed since, words like ‘iPad’ and ‘tablet’ have become so integrated into teenage culture that it’s difficult to imagine life without them.
When the iPad first appeared on the market in 2010, possibilities for its use in education were endless. Textbooks could be loaded onto a piece of metal lighter thn a notebook, writing could be stored and shared effortlessly no matter where you were, and information would be cheaper and more widely accessible than ever. News stories circulated about entire schools getting iPads for their students, as we who remained relegated to the land of pens and loose-leaf waited enviously until a school as large as Stuyvesant could finagle something like that for us.
As expected, this has yet to happen. There’s no way a public school like ours can afford to buy a couple thousand tablets— but that hasn’t stopped students from going out and getting their own. The rising trend of integrating technology into daily life has seen more and more kids toting their apple-banded birthday presents into the building. Every single one of my classes is peppered with students bent over their sleek mini-computers, jabbing away at the screen as they take notes—the very picture of education in the twenty first century.
That’s what it looks like from the front of the classroom, but the back row offers a very different perspective. A quick sweep of the screens facing my direction will almost always find the majority of them displaying a game or a chat room, and none of the teachers have a clue. Since many tablets also have gaming capability (and a lot of it), it’s easy for students to navigate away from a note-taking application in lieu of something like Angry Birds— and that’s assuming they even bother to open a word processor in the first place.
The tablet— the iPad and the innumerable other look-alikes that have since followed it— is undeniably a cool and incredible feat of technology, but we’re using it all wrong. All the signs point to tremendous strides in education, but in execution we’ve done nothing but take advantage of this new innovation. In my experience, it’s rare to see someone on an iPad that isn’t playing a game or videochatting with a friend in another room, and, to be frank, it’s detrimental to my education.
It’s all too easy to bypass the Board of Education network and access censured sites, and after a stressful night of studying even the most dedicated student may waver at the temptation to take a ten minute break from class and surf the internet. Procrastination spills over into school hours as students make the decision to do homework during the class itself. They appear to the teacher to be busily taking notes on a lesson while bs-ing the previous evening’s work instead.
With so many distractions at home, Stuyvesant aims for a concentrated learning environment for a reason, and instead of fostering that, the use of tablets has merely served to undermine it. It promotes laziness and allows students to tune out, and it’s a distraction for everyone who can see the screens.
But this isn’t just about me being petty about how other people spend their time in class. To be frank, I don’t really care about other people wasting their time – it’s just a point of frustration. I can deal with frustration. What I absolutely can’t deal with, however, are the academic habits tablet-toters have begun to develop. We’ve all had that one or two times where we’ve hastily scribbled out a few sentences for English before class or filled out a Spanish assignment on the way up the escalator, but the internet on tablets allows students to complete homework in class, without a protective backpack covering their desk to block the wandering eyes of an oblivious instructor. If the work gets checked, they just show them the tablet, claiming it was done the night before. During a lesson, they look up facts and spit them out during discussion, much to the impressment of the teacher. Practices like this undermine the students in class who printed their work out the night before and have dutifully brought it to class, those who are legitimately mitted to learning and participating and don’t rely on the speed of the worldwide web for their answers.
The tablet has incredible educational potential—there are some really innovative applications that can certainly enrich the school experience. But, as students, we have taken advantage of this new technology to the extent that we hardly deserve to use them within the building. You’re not beating the system; you’re hurting your own education.
So to everyone reading who is guilty of this crime: stop. It’s obnoxious and unfair and detracts from those who still make an effort to work hard. Go back to using a laptop, or do what the rest of us do: write. With a pencil and a notebook, the old-fashioned way. Do you even remember how?