As a college student in 2017, it almost seems like an understatement to say that I use technology to support me in every aspect of my life. In fact, like most of my counterparts, I will admit that I rely on my laptop and cell phone to think for me. These two pieces of modern technology have become part of my identity. I never go outside without my cell phone fully charged and I carry my laptop around campus with me. I use my cell phone for speedy, reliant communication with my friends and family. It tells me the weather every morning and it reminds me of my daily chores that I would easily forget to do otherwise. I use my laptop to write papers, to browse social media sites, and to conduct research. Because this technology is portable, I do not have to be in the library to start my homework. While those of older generations would ask me if adding the extra weight to my already overstuffed bag is really necessary, I cannot possibly recall the number of times in which my technology has been right where I needed it. However, I haven’t always had the luxury of being able to walk around with instant access to a world of knowledge at my fingertips.
For as long as I can remember my family had a desktop computer and dial-up internet. However, while my mom would use this computer to communicate with our extended family, I think the first time I used a computer myself was in third grade. My third grade classroom had four desktop PCs and we would take turns using them to access supplemental educational resources on the internet, such as websites containing basic arithmetic games. At the time I was thoroughly unimpressed with the newly-present computational technology in my life. While many of my classmates used computers at home to play games and to use an application called “Paint,” I spent all my spare time reading fiction. I could not fathom why the rest of the class was so intrigued by the classroom computers. The computers seemed like little more than ugly boxes taking up space in the classroom. I was much more impressed with our classroom’s fishtank and the mini-library than I was with the ability to access the internet. Furthermore, the computer screen displays were dim and blurry and I think this appearance made me even more reluctant to follow my classmates into the emerging technological society of 2005. The internet itself was incredibly slow, and I remember thinking at the time that waiting for the webpages to load was a waste of time when we could just as easily learn to solve basic arithmetic equations with a pencil and paper. While I admit that playing arithmetic games on the computer was more entertaining than merely memorizing the times-tables, I do not see how the technology helped the learning process in any way. Hence, my first exposure to computers and the internet is not the experience that I would say led to my current dependence on computational technology.
In fourth grade my elementary school PTO raised enough funds to supply the entire school with 20 Apple laptops (Macbooks). Since each classroom only had about 20 students, this meant that every student would be able to use his own laptop whenever the teacher brought the laptop cart to the classroom. I was intrigued by these laptops and the ability to pick them up and carry them back to my desk. It was on these laptops that I first learned to type word documents. As a student who has always had messy handwriting, I was sick and tired of my teachers complaining that they could not read my handwriting. The B-‘s I received for handwriting on my report card were extremely frustrating. Hence, I began to appreciate technology when I was allowed to start typing my work. At this point, I was still not impressed by the slow internet connection.
At this point in time my family purchased a laptop for my sister and I to share when we needed to complete typed homework assignments. Once again, the dial-up internet in my house was slow and tedious to use so I relied on print materials from my local library to complete research assignments.
I started to rely on word processing technology more frequently in fifth grade when I joined our student newspaper. For an hour after school once a week the newspaper club would use the school laptops to type articles that would be published as soon as the next day. It was this process that made me truly understand the convenience of having a computer. Not only did I not have to worry about the editor being able to read my handwriting, but I also learned how to use spell check. This helped me work faster since I didn’t have to stop and think about spelling. I also appreciated being able to cleanly edit my work. It felt like a blessing to not have to worry about smudgy erasers making holes in the paper.
My experience with technology in middle school was pretty insignificant when considering how my early experiences with digital technology have turned me into a technology-dependent college student. I still used the family laptop to write short papers and to conduct minimal research. Since my family still had dial-up internet even though high-speed internet was becoming more popular at the time, I still preferred using print references to internet references. Additionally, I had never learned how to conduct a productive Google search. Even when I opted to search the internet for research, I did not have much luck finding particularly helpful sources. This left me with a negative attitude towards technology and I continued to prefer the five minute trek to the library to being able to use the internet from my house. With this being said, I did learn to become a faster typer due to my “Computer Basics” classes. These classes taught me how to make a PowerPoint and how to use the internet to find pictures to place in either a word document or a slideshow. These skills proved to be useful as PowerPoint presentations began to replace the trifold posters that I was used to.
It was during my middle school years that my peers became more technologically literate in comparison to me. Many of them had high-speed internet, Myspace accounts and cell phones. While I was curious about these digital devices, I was not particularly heartbroken when my mom would not allow me to have them myself. In this case ignorance was truly bliss as I was completely unaware of how these devices could have made my life any different or easier. The first piece of personal technology was my iPod Nano which I got for Christmas in eight grade. It was with this device that I came to love technology. It was so convenient to be able to listen to any song I wanted whenever I wanted, without waiting for it to be played on the radio. Ironically, this is the only piece of technology I no longer use as a college student. I do not have any songs loaded on my phone. Rather, I use Pandora Radio to listen to music. While I used to enjoy choosing which song to listen to, I now prefer to let Pandora do the choosing. This makes it easier to not get distracted when I am focusing on schoolwork because I do not have to think about what song I want to listen to next.
It wasn’t until ninth grade that I got my own laptop. While I still did not have social media, I appreciated being able to access the computer whenever I needed it. I also created an email account, and I quickly got used to emailing my work to myself so that I could easily access it in case something happened to my computer. At this point I also got access to high speed internet both at school and at home so I began to prefer using the internet to print materials. The internet gave me access to recent information that was not yet published in books. This was especially convenient when my homework assignments only required simple Google searches that could be completed in a matter of seconds. For longer assignments such as research papers I used a combination of internet sources and print materials. While the print materials had higher quality information, I began to get annoyed with how long it took to look through the books to find what I need. At this point, I used the internet to find information whenever I could just to save time.
My first exposure to handheld technology was in 10th grade when I got an iPod Touch for Christmas. To date, this was my favorite introduction to modern technology. As far as I was concerned, the iPod Touch was the best invention of the 21st century. I could take pictures, play games and browse the internet all without paying for cell phone service. It would not be far-fetched to conclude that my heavy iPod use is what led me to become so dependent on technology today. While I was happy to upgrade to an iPhone 5s in 12th grade, this experience was not as special to me since I was already so used to having the iPod Touch. With this being said, I did like the added speed and the ability to use the device without wifi.
It was in 12th grade that I began to use two important websites that I take advantage of today: Google Documents and Facebook. I started using Google Documents in AP Biology when I had to write group lab reports. Using Google Documents made my life much easier since multiple people could edit the document at the same time. We no longer had to email documents back and forth or worry that some of the changes being made were lost in the process. Additionally, Google Documents saved our work automatically so we did not have to worry about hitting the save button every few edits. Whenever I have a group project in college I do not hesitate to collect everyone’s Gmail addresses so that I can create either a Google Document or a Google Slideshow. Just like my high school lab partners could work together without meeting up, the same holds true today. Since everyone has a different schedule in college, Google Documents has once again proved to be one of my favorite digital devices.
I made a Facebook account as soon as I found out I was accepted to Trinity. I wanted to be able to join the class of 2018 Facebook page so that I could familiarize myself with the faces of some of my classmates and so that I would not miss any important updates from the Admissions office. While I do not use Facebook to add pictures or to update my status, it is one of my favorite ways to keep in touch with old friends from high school. Additionally, it makes keeping myself updated with current events easier than ever. I follow numerous new sites which makes up for the fact that I do not have a television in my room.
Unsurprisingly, my technology usage has picked up a lot since I started college. For the first time in my life, I am as technologically literate as my peers. I know how to use virtually every social media site and I can comprehend texting slang without any issues. What has changed most from high school to college is the nature of my schoolwork. Most of my reading has been digitalized, and the papers I have to write are too long to be written with a pencil and paper. This makes carrying around a laptop worthwhile. I do not have to waste paper and add clutter to my already cluttered dorm room by printing out journal articles. With my laptop I can work anywhere I want without having to worry about having a public computer available. At this point in my life I cannot imagine what my life would be like without digital technology.