Technology: tool or distraction?

Students in the 9 a.m. political science class sit scattered throughout the room as the professor lectures about Russia’s controversial government. Looking up from his notebook briefly to take a scan of the room, one student notices every single student face down looking at not their textbook or notes – but at their cell phones and computers.
Technology is continuously paving the way for teachers to excel at their job, but only if they can tame non-class use of it.
There is a common consensus among a sample of professors at Castleton State College that technology is and can be a great tool for the profession, but they have to find balance for how to use it in classes while being critical of it when it’s not appropriate – in the case of cell phones for example.
Professor John Klein of the psychology department said, students like screens because they want to stay connected with their friends and professors are trying harder to gear their classes toward more technologically based settings to stay modernized.
“Nobody is immune to it [technology],” Klein said.
And studies show that increased technology use in classrooms has had positive impact on students learning.
According to a study in Auburn, ME, kindergarteners who used iPads scored better on every literacy test than those who didn’t. A similar study in California showed that 78 percent of students who used an iPad to learn algebra scored “proficient” or “advanced” on the California Standards Test. That was compared to the 59 percent who learned from a textbook.
The results from the report said the iPad was the “chief cause” for the improvement in test scores.
When it comes to illicit use of technology in classrooms, professor Abess Rajia, of the mathematics department, puts all of the emphasis on the teachers. Teachers today put too much blame on the student instead of looking for ways to be more effective, according to Rajia.  
“Students text, because the teacher isn’t good or is boring,” Rajia said. “I give students a reason not to text by making them use their hands.”
The problem with cellphones in classes could also be different teacher to teacher.
Andy Alexander, chair of the English department, doesn’t use the traditional lecture style method of teaching. Instead he uses more discussion-based forms of teaching to engage students. He said he hasn’t had issues with students using cellphones, but said he might think differently if it was lecture.
Former professor Tom Conroy was just the opposite, using a lecture style method of teaching. Conroy was also  well known for his cell phone basket. At the beginning of class he would have students put their phones in the basket, claiming he had to because of persistent problems with texting in class.
Richard Reardon, of the education department, is a strong advocate for technology in education and says its “unrealistic” to get rid of it.
“Sometimes you have to embrace technology rather than tell students to put their phones away,” Reardon said.
Technology is booming in the education field and showing no signs of slowing down. It is apparent teachers recognize this, while understanding the ball is in their court.
“Technology is as good as the instructor,” Rajia said.