Stop the Digitalization of Our Work

As digital technology advances and becomes more popular, we must make sure our education system does not get swept up in the craze.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

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By Fareha Islam

After two years of remote learning filled with digital worksheets and Google Forms, enough is enough. Stop relying on the Internet as a place for our work. Instead, give us physical worksheets that we can write on with pencils. We’ve developed an increasing dependency on Google Classroom, e-books, and websites such as DeltaMath for our work. There is no need to move everything online, and while some aspects, such as the organization of work, have improved, increased distractions hinder that improvement. This problem has not just infected our work at home, but also our classrooms, where it has become increasingly popular to have in-class activities on devices.

We have seen an increase in the amount of technology used in our classrooms. In surveys conducted by Gallup, an analytics company based in Washington D.C., it was revealed that 63 percent of high school students and 64 percent of middle school students use technology for school daily.

Digitalizing our work may seem like progress, but when examined further, this concept does not hold true. When working online, students and teachers spend extra hours staring at screens, something everyone has had enough of over the pandemic and which can lead to eyestrain, blurred vision, headaches, neck and back pain, and even cancer. Furthermore, devices impair one’s sleep because blue light emitted from devices suppresses the release of melatonin, a hormone that makes you feel drowsy. Many students tend to procrastinate, causing them to do work on their computers right before they go to bed and therefore impact the quality of their sleep.

While it is possible to prevent exposure to blue light by wearing protective glasses, many people cannot afford to do so. Additionally, much of the public does not know about the consequences of exposure to blue light, so a majority of people do not take preventative measures. Schools and workplaces should be responsible for reforming and protecting the people inside their systems from the consequences of constant digital reliance, as they have the ability to shift the way that they function.

Beyond the physical consequences of looking at a screen, digitalization of school work makes it easier for students to cheat on assignments. Schools have not been successful in preventing online cheating, and while they can threaten suspension, academic dishonesty requires reporting to be addressed. Instead of having more important assessments online, schools should implement policies that prevent teachers from assigning work online. Teachers can also ask more in-depth questions that require students to provide explanations for why they put certain answers. This modification makes it easier for the teacher to compare other students’ work and see if they are suspiciously similar.

Other issues that arise from digitalization directly relate to a student’s ability to take in knowledge and study for exams. Notetaking and textbook studying are less effective when done digitally. It has been proven in numerous studies that you don’t retain information as well when notetaking on a device. While many students have stopped taking notes on computers or iPads after returning to in-person school, some still do, as they find it more efficient. Many of them spend about 40 percent of their time on their devices doing activities unrelated to the lesson. Ninety undergraduate students read short, informational texts on a computer and in print in 2016. While both groups were able to recall main ideas equally well, students who read the text in print were able to remember small details noticeably better. Currently, we use digital textbooks for most subjects, something that many students struggle with. Schools tend to save up to 40 to 50 percent in textbook costs a year by using online textbooks. However, online textbooks must be bought every year, while paper copies can be replaced once every five to seven years. While it can be more cost-efficient to use digital textbooks, the education of the youth should be prioritized, and alternative methods that hinder students’ ability to learn should not be used.

Even though we are doing most of our work online, we still have to print many things out. Many teachers require students to print out readings, homeworks, and essays. The amount of paper may go down, but it’s a fractional amount, since all subjects still need paper copies to a certain degree. While printing may be an issue for many, there are solutions, such as the printing station on the second floor and the library printers on the sixth floor.

Many of us believe that using more paper means that we destroy a larger number of trees. However, the data disputes this belief: more paper being used potentially leads to more trees being planted. According to the USDA, in the U.S. alone, 1.7 million trees are planted each day by the lumber industry, which is heavily criticized for deforestation and high carbon dioxide levels. This statistic disproves the false rationale regarding why we are losing trees. We can also save up to 250 million trees a year by recycling just our newspapers. There are other alternatives to digitalization, but some of the most accessible ones are right in front of us.

The role of new digital technologies can certainly be important to how we learn—we can use SMART boards to teach and online websites such as Talos to access course selections—but we should not be so reliant on digital technology that it is an integral part of our daily routine. Paper is better for our sleep and makes it easier for us to comprehend material. As members of Stuyvesant who care about the quality of education students will receive for countless years, we need to change our ways. This change all starts with stopping schools from digitalizing our work.