October 23, 2015

PUTTING IT INTO FOCUS | Technology, Meet Student

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Memorization has been and is currently used as a learning mechanism for many students. While memorizing may be the rule for some topics, understanding is a major tool to gaining success. Students of all majors misinterpret memorization as the only way to doing well on exams, interpreting key topics in discussion and understanding coursework. Yet many do not realize, or ascertain too late, that understanding in addition to memorizing is what leads to a better knowledge of coursework and, therefore, better grades.

As I sat in the library, I pondered the arguments against memorization. While it certainly may be easier to sit down, memorize and leave the library after seven hours, I realized that spending seven hours in a quiet library was not the most efficient way to study rather, it was the most time consuming and most inefficient. It was understanding the topic that would help me with the material taught in lecture. Yet I soon realized that I needed a tool that would help me in my understanding, something that would help me apply what I learned to broader issues. What I needed was technology.

Used most often in conjunction with social media websites, games and devices, technology has recently made its way into the academic world. With elementary school students using iPads to learn how to read and write and college students using new interfaces in their scientific work, technology plays a large role in the education of students of all ages. While some students may feel technology as new and out of place in the academic world, especially with the advent of eBooks, technology can help immensely in comprehending and applying material learned traditionally in the classroom.

Every week, my biology class assigns several TED Talks to be discussed during discussion sections. What I thought at first would have been a long but interesting task of watching a video that would excuse me from the rest of my work for 15 minutes proved to be an eye opening experience. As I watched the TED talks each week, I realized just how efficient they were in expanding my knowledge of the material I learned in lecture. Whereas I was used to understanding separate mechanisms and cycles, the TED Talks I watched expanded my knowledge into other realms and ideas. Instead of simply understanding a topic on a slide, I was able to apply what I understood in lecture to other ideas and topics studied in academia today. Without the use of videos and modules online, my understanding of biology would be much different than what it is currently.

Without comprehending a specific mechanism or idea, even simple topics could be hard to grasp. Memorizing the material will not provide a shortcut to success nor will it help in the long term with understanding a topic for a future job or for other academic routes. However, tools that can broaden a student’s understanding should be strongly encouraged in classrooms. Whether it be watching a 15-minute TED Talk or using iPads to understand ideas, any technological tool can help a student’s success in a course.

If we are to produce a stronger, more knowledgeable generation, we must be able to educate students in such a way as to bolster understanding, questions and ideas. The scientists of the future are not going to solve impending problems by simply doing well on an exam. Rather, forthcoming innovators, leaders, doctors, lawyers, businesspersons and scientists will need to understand and apply their knowledge. Without the application of topics discussed every week, no one will be able to fully understand the breadth of the topic at hand and its importance in the world at large.