Computers have not been around very long, but in the time that they have been, they have improved greatly. Computers today are much smaller, faster, and more powerful than those of just a few years ago. The number of people who own a computer has also skyrocketed. Many people even own multiple computers, including desktops, laptops, smartphones and wearable computers, which are often designed to look like watches or glasses.
As more and more people buy computers all the time, more and more computers make their way into our children’s classrooms. Computer literacy is a very important skill for those now entering the workforce, but at the same time, being able to access all the information one could ask for, on almost any topic, introduces new challenges to students in schools today.
Taking Notes and Environmental Costs
It is becoming more and more common for students to take notes on a laptop or tablet during class. When they do this, it becomes really easy to access notes created earlier by the student. No more picking through binders trying to remember the date or topic at the start of class that day. On a computer, notes can be tagged with appropriate phrases, making them incredibly easy to find at a later date. Topics, dates or even key mnemonics can be used to make it quicker to find, requiring less worry and memorization.
Even if you didn’t take your notes on your computer, it can still be the best place to store them. A scanner or even just a smartphone will allow you to capture handwritten notes and save them permanently on your hard drive. It may not be as easy as filling up a notebook but without the need for additional physical space, a student can keep their notes for years without discarding a single page, and not have to worry about carrying around any extra weight.
Despite the fact that avoiding paper products is good for the environment, there are other costs to consider when using a computer:
Is the power supply using clean and environmentally friendly energy sources?
This will vary a lot based on where you are. In some places, cleaner ways of generating energy, including solar panels, windmills and nuclear power plants are used more. In other places, burning coal is still the most common way to generate electricity, and this pollutes the environment much more than the other technologies mentioned.
What happens to a computer and its batteries when it is finally thrown away?
Many cities are now introducing e-waste programs, which accept unwanted electronics for proper disposal. By giving old electronics to such e-waste programs, the dangerous chemicals contained in them can be contained, so as not to pollute the environment, and in some cases can even be recycled.
Do the costs of having a computer outweigh the values?
Sure, there are plenty of benefits, as we’ve discussed, but computers can be very expensive. While they are becoming cheaper and more easily available all the time, they are still not necessarily affordable for everyone.
These are the questions you must consider before claiming that keeping notes on a computer is better than keeping paper notes. The benefits may well outweigh the costs, but that is up to you to decide. The solution to this dilemma will be different for every student.
An Unnecessary Distraction?
Computers offer access to the greatest bank of information in the world, the Internet. But the value of all this readily available knowledge comes with its own costs. There is so much more on the Internet than information.
Thousands of sites devoted to distraction are just as easy to get to as those used for schoolwork or research. Is it worth the risk that students choose to go to the wrong websites? Schools try to limit this risk by blocking problematic sites but it can be difficult to keep up, as new websites, which are often less-than-productive to visit, are launched every day.
In most cases, when you look out at a classroom in which most of the students have electronic devices, you will see that not all of them are as focused as they should be. A huge number of them will likely be on social websites or texting on their phones. Many of them will be chatting with friends only a few feet away through the Web. In the past a teacher would have noticed any students passing notes or talking. But when every screen and message faces away from the teacher, how can they notice and discipline their students? It is very difficult for a teacher to police their students’ online interactions, not knowing who has the right websites and windows open, and who has the wrong ones.
With this in mind, here are a number of tips on avoiding distraction while working on your computer or phone in class:
Find an application that will limit your distractions
There are many different apps that are designed to increase your productivity, most often by blocking features of your device that don’t have anything to do with schoolwork. During class, or even when working on a project after class, try blocking yourself from those websites that you find yourself visiting most often for distractions. Whether these are social media, entertainment, or games websites, if you can’t view them, you’ll have more time to pay attention, or finish off that big project.
Sit at the front of the class
You may not always get a choice in where in the room you sit, but if you do, try to sit near the front. For one thing, this will mean you are closer to the teacher or lecturer. For many students, this is enough to avoid distraction. They will be able to hear and see better, but also may be more worried about getting caught if they were to visit distracting websites like the ones we’ve talked about. The other major benefit of sitting near the front of the class is that there will be fewer other students in front of you. Often times, the worst distractions aren’t even on your own device! Other students’ computers and phones can be just as distracting as your own.
Schedule a break for yourself
This tip is more for when you are working on a project after class. Instead of letting yourself become distracted whenever you get the urge to check your social media accounts or play one more round of that awesome game, set up a schedule. Tell yourself that you can, for example, stop working for five minutes every half an hour, or ten minutes every hour. Of course, you don’t have to use these exact times. How you want to schedule your time is up to you, but by deciding on a specific plan beforehand, you may be able to limit your distractions.
Set intermediate goals for yourself
This tip is also best for working on a project outside of class time. Tell yourself that you have to have a certain portion of the project done by a certain time, or day, depending on how far away your deadline is. This will give your work more immediacy, and add pressure, which some people need in order to focus and get their work done.
Each student will have their own distractions–this is another cost of using a computer–and each student must choose for themselves how to limit those distractions. This list of tips is a good place to start, though, in the fight against distraction by devices.
The Importance of Computer Literacy
We’ve talked about how computers have spread into the mainstream, and made their way into children’s classrooms. Well, for even longer than computers have been used in schools, computers have been used in industry, and the number of people who use computers for their jobs is always going up.
In today’s world, nearly every occupation requires some level of computer literacy. Besides the obvious, specialized jobs that centre around computers, waiters and waitresses in restaurants use computers to transmit food orders to the kitchen and process payments, doctors and nurses use computers to record results of tests and other patient information, and construction workers use computers to coordinate and plan their work. There are countless other examples as well. It is nearly impossible to find a job that doesn’t involve computer use at all in today’s world. This means that there is another important benefit to consider when talking about computers in the classroom: using computers regularly makes one better at using computers. This in turn makes one more employable.
Now, what about those jobs we mentioned that do centre almost entirely around computer use? These include occupations such as mathematicians, engineers, computer programmers, and computer scientists. As it turns out, these are among the most highly-paid positions one can have. So, not only will knowing your way around a computer help you to get a job in the first place, but being proficient in computer use can be vital to landing a top job.
But that’s not the only job-market trend revolving around computers. The other major one is automation. All the time, more and more jobs are becoming automated, or, in other words, replaced by computers. So far this has mainly included administrative and industrial jobs, but as the technology continues to improve, robots may soon make up an even larger portion of the workforce. As this happens, there will be fewer opportunities for humans to do many of the jobs that exist today. There is still a bright side of this for job-seekers, though: jobs involving management of automated workers will crop up. While there may be fewer factory jobs, there are more jobs as engineers and technicians, in order to maintain the machinery and software that runs the factories of the future. For this reason as well, computer literacy is important, and computer literacy can be improved greatly by teaching children to use computers at an earlier age, and to use them in more situations, including in school.
In the past seventy years, computers have gone from a dream to an everyday reality that most of us take for granted. In the process, computers have been adapted to and used for educational purposes. Schools have computer labs, teachers use special, interactive screens to teach their lessons, and students use their own devices to take notes and do research. While computers make many tasks easier, they can also complicate things.
Many students choose to take notes on their computers. This can be great, as it makes notes easier to edit and search through, and can allow for a wider variety of content to be incorporated, through images, videos, and audio recordings. Using a computer also means that you are not wasting paper that will just have to be thrown out when you are done with your notes, and that you don’t have to carry as much weight. However, there are also environmental and economic costs to consider before you buy a computer, as discussed above.
One must also consider other costs in deciding whether using a computer for school is write for them, especially the potential for distraction. Computers give access to the Internet, which, as the biggest store of knowledge ever created, can be hugely distracting. Still, there are a number of strategies to combat this, and it is important to combat it in order remain to productive.
Even beyond the convenience of computers, though, is their ultimate value. It is extremely difficult to work in any position without being able to use a computer in some capacity. Almost every job requires some computer literacy, and many of the most highly-paid positions centre almost entirely around computer use. For this reason, it is vital that students learn how to use computers, although using them for taking notes may not be the best choice for everyone.
Ultimately, the choice is up to the individual whether or not to buy a computer for school. There are many points on both sides of the argument, but it is undeniable that computers and their importance are here to stay.
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