Month: March 2014

Education in the Age of Digital Distraction

As the technological whirlwind encompasses the entire world, the manner in which we process information is changing. This alteration is found is inherent in the newer generation which is growing up with the ability to process multiple things at once. This is due to their adaptability to change in their younger years where their minds are much more impressionable. While there are strong links between procrastination and adults when it comes to use of technology, it is not as pronounced as that in younger users. Matt Richtel of the New York Times takes into account the life and behavior of a high school senior Vishal Singh who seems to be faced with the technological conundrum. While Richter is able to paint an accurate picture of the current situation, it seems that he has managed to maintain a neutral stance when it comes to the use of technology in education. As we progress towards the end however this stance is suddenly abandoned as he provides evidence of Vishal’s neglect towards his homework.

In a world where the newer generation is being born distracted, everyone is faced with a choice. They can either receive immediate gratification through a video or a prolonged exposure to a non-responsive piece of paper. According to Vishal the lack of interactivity and responsiveness when it comes to traditional homework methods is what causes them to choose technological entertainment over traditional learning every time. While efforts are being made towards the introduction of technology in classrooms in order to find a balance between learning and casual technological use, the efforts seem to be going in the wrong direction. It seems that it is not really technology or interactivity that is a cause for concern but rather the topic at hand. The two subjects in comparison in the article were that of Latin and an Audio Class. As Vishal states at one point, the students were more interested in subjects that were important for their future. Perhaps the choice of subject for comparison, even if iPads were being used to assist learning was not quite effective.

 

In a world where the newer generation is predisposed to absorbing information through screens and displays, school books provide a bleak contrast looking more and more like a chore every day. The sample on which the study was based also seems a little faulty. While the school itself did have a diverse sample of students, the ones in question belonged to the same faculty, studying the same subjects and of the same social class. The access to technology, be it only in an education al framework may be the only one available to students such as those receiving discounted or free lunches in the school.

At some points, the writer seems to jump towards clichés which may have been valid arguments perhaps 15 years ago but fail to deliver the same effect today. This refers to the dichotomous behaviors of the principal and the Latin teacher towards technology; one comparing it to a passing fad and the other as the end all and be all of the educational system in the future.

Technology in education is by no means a passing trend such as “Rock & Roll” but it is also not a crutch that the educational system can rely on. There is a great need for an integration of the two through which educators can facilitate effective and interactive learning methods.

 

 

Richtel, M. (2004). Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction. In S. Blau & K. Burak (Eds),

Writing in the Works (pp. 349). Wadsworth: Cengage Learning.

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The Life of a First Generation Muslim Teenager in the Western Culture

In a post 9/11 world, the perspectives of people regarding minorities; especially Muslims have drastically changed. As the world focuses on the bigger picture, it seems to lose focus on the smaller details of how religious and cultural differences affect the daily lives of people living in a culture that does not belong to them. Matthai’s work focuses on the life of a first generation Muslim teenager trying to maintain the balance between religious values and western culture. The story follows Mohamed Ahmed; a university student through his daily life and activities.

 

The writer begins by drawing a picture of a seemingly perfect individual that stays away from alcohol, is a football star, and still manages to make it on the honor roll. As the story progresses the underlying layers of his internal struggles are revealed. As Mohamed lives in a split world he is in a constant battle between what he was taught as a child and what he is experiencing in his college years. Small things that American teenagers take for granted become difficult decisions for Mohammad. Since the writer presents unbiased details of events, the reader has the opportunity to form their own opinions by drawing on their own experiences. In many ways it brings to light issues that many American teenagers would not have considered as evident by the behaviors of Mohamed’s friends who don’t really seem to realize the dilemma that he is faced with. On some occasions they were found trivializing his beliefs where he was given alcohol under false pretense and was asked whether he had “hooked up” with someone.

The pressure on Mohamed however is not only from one direction. While his teenage peers show a lack of understanding, his parents present an absolute 180 degree shift and restrict him from any social interactions. At this point it needs to be understood just how much of the control over Mohamed’s behavior stems from religion and how much is derived from cultural influences. As Mohamed’s friend reveals, first generation American Muslims are subject to stricter control by their parents who are afraid that their children will deviate from their culture and will be subject to western influences.

 

It is astonishing to understand that something as little as contact with the opposite sex is a matter of debate within Mohamed’s household. This not only makes us privy to the view from the inside but also reveals how large the differences between the two cultures are.

Although Mathai manages to convey the internal struggle of Mohamed by focusing not only on his words but his body language he fails to draw a complete picture of the situation. In a three sided debate he has only managed to reveal the opinions of two and a description of the social life that Mohamed was exposed to at the Mosque and among Muslim friends is left wanting. He also fails to consider the cultural factors in play here. Most restrictions on Mohamed don’t seem to be of a religious nature but rather a cultural one stemming from parental fear.

Mathai does however succeed in providing a picture of Mohamed and the transitions that took place in his personality through the years. We see Mohamed as he moves from his strictly academic life towards a more social one through his football friends and then in College where he struggled to become like his peers. Another factor which must be understood is that Mohamed is living in a place where he has no exposure to others facing the same situation as him. This lack of support from similar individuals does not provide him with a second opinion that could help him through. 

 

 

Matthai, T. (2004). A Fine Balance: The Life of a Muslim Teenager. In S. Blau & K. Burak (Eds),

Writing in the Works (pp. 197). Wadsworth: Cengage Learning.