How Technology is Slowly Killing Your GPA (And Your Mind)

Picture this: you’re in a regular post-secondary classroom. Your professor walks into the lecture hall, but he doesn’t fiddle around with the projector, take out a laptop, or prepare any slides—he just begins talking. You frantically look around you to see if you’re in the right class.

You are. And your professor is still showing no signs of starting up a PowerPoint.

Once you’re out of shock, all you can gather from the droning professor is that a “no-laptop policy” is in place. That means you’ll have no Macbook to take your notes on, and it also means that you’ll actually have to invest in some notebooks and a good pen.

A voice inside your head, however, is thinking otherwise. You won’t—nay, you can’t—allow this archaic, anti-tech nutjob to hinder your learning. You resolve to drop the class the minute you leave. Hell, you might even do it on your Macbook during the lecture just because you’re a badass.

“You won’t—nay, you can’t—allow this archaic, anti-tech nutjob to hinder your learning.”

Full disclosure: if you did that, you would be jumping the gun big time. Sure, your first instinct would tell you that this professor is off the rails, but it’s seriously worth considering whether or not his outdated ways might be doing you a favour. I, myself, am leaning more towards that idea.

Here are some ways that technology might not only be killing our GPAs, but our capacities to learn.

Staying Focused is Extremely Difficult

Because of the Internet (and the beauty that is mobile data), you can access every and any bit of information you desire. You might have a little app that looks like a spiral-bound notebook for you to type your notes in—sure, that’s cool—but stalking that cute guy on Facebook will likely end up being far more interesting to you than typing on a pretend lined sheet of paper.

Teachers know all too well about these distractions, too. A professor at the University of Waterloo employed a grad student to observe other students’ laptop usage and found that 85% of students were not using their laptops for course-related work.

Don’t be fooled. Your professors know. They know just how distracted you are by Facebook and that you’re probably not focused on the theory of relativity, and it probably annoys them to no end. You probably aren’t absorbing any information, either, and that isn’t doing you any favours at all.

Note-taking is More Ineffective

The worst feeling in the world is when you’re copying the last sentence on a slide and it suddenly changes. You hardly need to worry about that on laptops, so they should be your go-to option for taking notes, right? Not quite.

There is a difference between taking notes and merely transcribing a lecture. A study conducted by two psychologists found that when students took notes with a pen, it got them to listen to what the professor was saying and select the most important pieces of information to write down. In a test that followed, students were asked to watch a TED talk and take notes. Those who took notes by hand scored significantly higher in answering conceptual questions about something than their counterparts who took notes on a laptop. Writing things down, it seems, can really help students retain more information and engage more fully with the material they’re learning—and that alone really outweighs the convenience of using laptops for your notes.

“There is a difference between taking notes and merely transcribing a lecture.”

Our Communication Skills Are Shot

One of the great things about having your laptop with you at all times is that you can look like you’re doing something important in a mere instant. But laptop screens are also very divisive and put you in a world of your own, making it difficult to talk to others once they’re open and glowing. Let’s not forget the little culprits that constantly buzz away in our pockets, either; most of us wouldn’t be able to count the number of times we check our smartphones in a day on one just one hand, and we would feel incredibly stressed out if we lost them. On top of this, our communication abilities have worsened because of our heavy use of phones and computers.

“Walk by any university food center and you’ll see countless people glued to their screens, even when they’re with other people.”

Face-to-face conversation has taken a major back seat to texting or calling, and at this rate, it’ll become more of a chore than anything else by the time we’re older. Walk by any university food center and you’ll see countless people glued to their screens, even when they’re with other people. It’s like they’ve forgotten that they have vocal chords or something. Just remember: there are still plenty of instances in your life where you’ll have to carry out spoken conversations, so keep conversing and cut down on the instant messaging!

Cheating Is Easier (If You Allow it to Be)

Technology has become an excellent resource for research, and using it to find information definitely beats going to the library and perusing books for hours. However, technology has also made it incredibly easy for students to cheat. In 2012, there were a reported 7,000 cases of cheating in Canadian universities. Half of them were cases of plagiarism, but academic dishonesty can include impersonating someone on a test, texting answers to another student, buying an essay off of someone, and many other things. By doing any of those things, your future is on the line. Yeah, scoring an A is cool, but only if you actually studied and got that A through hard work. Cheating could not only result in you getting zero A grades, but also trouble with the administration. And like I said, it could mess up your future big time.

There is no denying that technology will always be an integral part of our learning experience, but we should all remember to use it with caution and in moderation. Don’t be afraid to whip out your pen and take notes by hand. Treasure the blissful feeling of disconnecting from the digital world once in a while. You’ll be surprised at what you can achieve if you do.

Rachel Wong

Rachel Wong

Rachel Wong is a Communications student at Simon Fraser University. She is a self-proclaimed music nerd and can usually be found scribbling in her journal. Her dream is to host Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live and one day meet her muse, Jimmy Fallon. However, if that doesn’t work out, anchoring the 6 o’clock news works just as well, too.