The youth of the 21st century are often referred to as “the technology generation” by those who have not grown up with today’s innovations. Additionally, numerous blogs and publications have generalized teen’s use of technology as wrapped up in the consumer side versus the utility side.
Some teachers at Roberson feel that problems related to the digital age come from students relying too heavily on technology.
“I really think that the younger generation as digital natives are too dependent upon technology, so much so that they sometimes don’t always think for themselves,” English teacher Tristen Plemmons said. “Instead of trying to figure out an answer to a problem on their own, they’ll Google the question to find the answer.”
However, students who have grown up surrounded by the expanding consumer side of technology often see clear benefits. Some have even chosen to further their knowledge of the producer side of computer science and technology by participating in the AP Computer Science class offered at Roberson.
Sophomore Dexter Vandersall, who is enrolled in the class, sees a future in the tech trade.
“There is a giant industry, and it’s still growing. There’s a demand for tech jobs, especially if you know programming. If you know one programming language, it opens up a whole bunch of others because it’s much easier to learn a second language after you’ve already learned the first one,” Vandersall said.
As the Instructional Technology Facilitator at Roberson, Jared Brush deals with technology on a daily basis but feels that teens are not receiving the essential skills for a future career in technology.
“I really think it’s great for investigative-type purposes. It’s too much of a resource to ignore,” Brush said. “What I do think is important for kids to learn is often what is being missed at school, which is just turning [a file cabinet] into the digital version. I see students still struggle with this. That’s the kind of thing that will be important in jobs.”
As a parent, Brush said that technology has its drawbacks for younger kids, too.. He fears some of the overwhelming effects that the commercial side of technology may have on future generations, especially with the concept of virtual reality.
“I do not like the idea of virtual reality. It almost makes me sick to think about walking in the house and seeing my son on the couch with this thing on his face. But, in 10 years, is that going to be an outdated way of thinking?” Brush said.
Students and teachers alike have seen a detachment in social and academic life stemming from this distraction both at home and at school.
“A con about technology would be that it kinda creates a disconnect from life. You can get easily distracted and swept into the internet,” Vandersall said.
Because of this inevitable distraction in addition to federal regulations that mandate restrictions of certain sites in the school system, the Buncombe County School System has invested in the Zscaler service and a restrictive wifi network, called Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). These services block websites or applications which are deemed unnecessary or troubling for school use based on content.
“I go back and forth, but in the end, I think I do agree with the Zscaler policy. It’s hard to justify the need for things like Facebook in school,” Brush said. “It’s not perfect because legitimate things get blocked, which is very frustrating. I’ve been in a classroom with 30 kids. You can’t police the websites they visit. You need some help.”
As is with many rules set in school, some students have learned ways to avoid the blocks altogether.
Vandersall sees his peers using a VPN connection, which stands for a Virtual Private Network. This connection allows students to bypass the blocks by the BYOD and access their favorite social media sites. Vandersall acknowledges that he has seen the VPN connection starting to pick up as a trend among students.
“It takes some more knowledge (to bypass the blocks). You can use a VPN and some other ways to do it. It’s not always the best idea though. I don’t think a lot of people do this, but some people have caught on and are starting,” Vandersall said.
Brush understands the divide between opinions comes from generations being at odds on the level of benefit of technology.
“I feel like what older generations cannot fathom becomes the norm to the younger generations. I think there is almost some resentment because of that,” Brush said.
Members of the committee this issue were: seniors Bryce Ballew, Elliot Mitchell & Sean Krueger, sophomore Amya Freeland, and freshmen, Ashley Teague & Kenya Thompson.
What are the general pros and cons of technology in your mind?
PANEL MEMBER 6: I think the biggest con that adults have seen with the use of technology is that they’re afraid that technology has become a replacement for sociality and talking to people; but first of all, I’m not sure if that’s entirely true. The pros of technology, which we’ve seen throughout history, are the ability to accomplish things that we could never accomplish before, and one person can now do the work of what used to be thousands.
PANEL MEMBER 5: The other day, I was talking to this lady, and she was saying how technology has changed a lot of people in general. For example, now you can go on any form of social media and see exactly what they’re doing, when back then, she had to walk down the street to her friend’s house to see what they’re doing instead of just going on Snapchat and looking at her story.
PANEL MEMBER 3: The rise of social media is definitely a big change; now we have a constant stream of information showing what any given person is doing at any given time. This makes socializing less necessary than it was, because you already know what your friends are up to. You don’t have to ask them how their last week has been because you’ve been communicating with them via technology.
Is our generation too technology oriented?
PM 6: I think there’s definitely a big dependence on technology. It’s fun to ask people, ‘How long do you think you could live without your smart phone?’ Most people say like five minutes. Personally, I don’t have a smartphone myself. It’s hard to say that we’re dependent on technology; I think we’re definitely very oriented around it because it’s become an integral part of our lives. The question is: ‘Is that a bad thing?’ It’s great for efficiency and for helping out with projects and also with knowing what your friends are up to. We really just need to ask, ‘Yes, technology has been very integrated in our lives, but is that so bad as it’s been drawn out to be?’
PM 3: Dependence is definitely a concern, because there are a lot of people who would probably act irrationally if they were restricted from the technology that they’ve gotten used to. Some people are basically attached to technology.
PM 5: A lot of people can’t even put down their cell phone use for an hour and a half, and the teachers have to take their phones away. Many people have become attached to it, and adults see that.
PM 3: I definitely see a dependence, but I don’t really think it’s a bad thing. It’s just society is not moving as fast as individuals are, so in order to adapt to that dependence, teaching strategies would have to change to accommodate.
PM 6: I think the biggest thing that we need to balance is that technology reliance is okay, but technology dependence isn’t. We need to find the difference between the two. I think the majority of individuals are able to say, ‘I don’t need my smartphone for thirty minutes, and I can focus on something else.’ However, there are other people who can’t do that, and that’s the issue.
Do you all find technology beneficial to a student’s learning environment?
PM 5: Yeah, it’s very helpful because a lot of our homework is now accessed through our phones.
PANEL MEMBER 1: Teachers are definitely assigning a lot more homework online than in the past in middle school because students didn’t all have cell phones. Now that teachers assume that students do have cell phones or the internet at home, they use technology a lot more for homework and projects. We looked at satellite images yesterday in science to learn about the effects of deforestation, so that aspect is helpful.
PANEL MEMBER 2: It’s just all about information. Everything that we used to have to go to the library and look in encyclopedias for is now in the palms of our hands. That’s a good thing. The world is moving forward obviously, and phones just help everybody keep up. It’s just part of what the whole world is becoming. In Mr. Semper’s class, we use our phones to look up information about Roman culture, which is very limited if you don’t have the resources to do so.
PM 6: The biggest thing that I really like about our integration of technology in school is that it’s helpful when you miss a class because you can easily look online at home and get the work you missed instead of having to walk up to the teacher and ask him/her.
PM 3: The new technology mitigates the inconvenience of distance. You now no longer don’t have to worry about or are able to say, ‘Oh that’s too far, or I can’t get there’ because you have the entire sum of human knowledge in your pocket.
Is the Zscaler system and BYOD network necessary and have people found a way to get around them?
PM 1: Zscaler keeps blocking the sites that could be beneficial. I’ve never had a bad site actually been blocked; it’s always when I’m researching– because I’m at school.
PM 3: You will see students trying to get on gaming sites, but the problem with the block is that it is powerful enough so hits a lot of things that it should, but a whole lot more that it should not. It’s mostly just an inconvenience for everyone, both those who are trying to learn, and those who are trying to goof off. It doesn’t help anyone.
PM 6: If we want to have a block, it needs to be more efficient.
PM 3: I mean to be fair, that (have an effective blocking system) is incredibly hard to do. However, ZScaler is a nightmare, and it’s a terrible company.
PM 6: I think in general, it is better to have no limitation on the internet. That way, as a student, you can find what you’re looking for; because, even if you’re not trying to find what you’re looking for, you’re going to find it anyways. No matter how strong the wall is, there will always be a hole.
PM 5: People have found that app where you can unblock the (BYOD restricted) wifi. If students want to get something that badly, they will find a way to get there. I don’t even use the school wifi. It’s just there, to be there.
PANEL MEMBER 4: It just slows down the network. They just need to cut out the block all together, because I’ve heard a lot of students know about the app.
PM 5: I just turn off the wifi. I guess I’m lucky that I have unlimited data, because that is all I use. This month I’ve used 96 gigabytes of data exclusively at school, because when I’m home I always use our personal wifi.
PM 4: I doubt visitors even use the wifi. You can’t get into anything at all.
PM 2: I think just mainly with computers, when kids bring in their laptop or iPad, then they will use it. I never use the wifi here.
PM 5: Some kids even turn on their hot spot from their phones when they bring their computer.
PM 3: It’s more efficient, but that comes from the school not having budget to speed up the internet and that’s completely justified.
What do you think about the youth’s future with technology?
PM 6: I think if we look at history, the nations who have been forwarding technology and advancing that field have been the most economically successful and powerful. It’s a long term investment where you don’t get an immediate return, but overtime it has great dividends.
PM 2: I was reading the other day about generations, I would like to be considered in ‘generation Z,’ which is the newest generation, but they are also calling it ‘iGen,’ which is not very flattering, but it’s true. We are growing up on smartphones all the time. It’s a generation of the future with which we just have to be prepared to belong in.
PM 6: I think adults are trying to solve problems with technology by simply banning it, but the point is to teach us how to use technology as something to enhance our experience.