Opinion: Is Technology Destroying Our Ability to Focus?

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Is the constant use of technology by young people causing them to lose the capacity to focus? The New York Times article "Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction" points out how being addicted to technology can have the effect of shortening one's attention span, which can ultimately reflect in the classroom. For example, students who were assigned to read novels could not retain the focus needed to finish the book, and instead chose to read outlines from certain websites or watch summaries on YouTube. Will the obsession with technology necessarily have a detrimental effect on the education of young people? Or is there a way to use the technological capacities and abilities of young people as mechanisms for learning?

The article discusses Woodside High School, a high school located in Silicon Valley, California whose focus is to integrate technology into education. The principal, David Reilly, claims that using technology as a medium for learning can solve the very problem of the students' shortening attention spans. By embracing the wealth of information available on the Internet and streamlining it into academics, students can feel driven and motivated because the material is conveyed to them in the manner with which they are most familiar.

If the mental makeup of young people truly is adapting to the perpetual use of digital media, it is important to adjust the way that education is conveyed to keep up with this change. While many hold onto more traditional forms of learning because they were useful in the past, a transition into a more technological educational atmosphere is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, allowing students to access the Internet and other digital resources can be a useful supplement to an education, because it provides as much context as the student wishes to discover, and can illuminate more than one perspective to any given issue. The Internet adds another dimension to learning, which can make it more interactive, comprehensible, and inspiring for young people.

Furthermore, the use of digital media better prepares young people for the fact that technology will most likely play a strong role in their futures. More and more technological jobs are being created, and more traditional jobs are incorporating technology into their structures. To grow up around technological devices is the best way to become proficient at using them, fixing them, and understanding how they work. These skills will be important when young people begin to apply for jobs later on. Depriving students of the technology they know and love could in fact hinder their ability to be competitive in an increasingly technological world.
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