Gadget world

Some weeks ago I was at a meeting at which we had to work out at one point how much 12 pieces of equipment would cost if the price of each was €1,100. The moment the question was asked all the participants except me pulled out their calculators (or calculator apps on their smartphones). I am happy and relieved to report that I had the answer before any of them, without any use of a calculator. I asked the others whether they really didn’t know how to find the answer without electronic assistance. One of them thought (but was not sure) that he could have done it in his head, while the other nine people present all said they couldn’t work it out unaided.

But it is not just that too many people today cannot do elementary tasks without a computer or electronic device. Research conducted in the University of Maryland has just revealed that, once deprived of their gadgets, many people now show clear withdrawal symptoms indicating an addiction. Gadgets perform basic tasks for us and provide us with our main forms of communication. As some readers know, I am myself a committed gadget fanatic, but I try to ensure that they never take over my life. They cannot answer and address all the issues that we encounter.

As gadget ownership sweeps across the world of young adults and children, it is important not to let them lose more traditional computational skills. Not every calculation should require a calculator, just as not every message needs to be delivered electronically.

Explore posts in the same categories: education, higher education

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8 Comments on “Gadget world”

  1. Conor Says:

    I asked my 11 year old and he gave the answer correctly. Well done!

  2. Vincent Says:

    Did you get your own vice-chancellors palace this time :D.

    I don’t know that they’ve forgotten how to do simple mathematics. I suspect it’s that they don’t trust the result to be sound. And you have the advantage over most with having to trust in numerous tongues that what you’re saying, if not fully correct(what is anyway), is accurate.

  3. anna notaro Says:

    on gadget addiction, Steven Fry has an ‘interesting thought:

    ‘But better to be addicted to smartphones and gismos than cocaine or sex, I suppose. Well, I don’t know, the result is the same after all, very little sleep, great expense and horrific mess everywhere.’

    something to ponder 🙂

  4. Al Says:

    There is a competition between the ambitions of an increased role for IT in the learning and the development of mental processes.
    Perhaps they are not sweet bedfellows?

  5. Daniel Says:

    I’ve done some subsitute teaching to 3rd – 5th year secondary school students, it’s staggering how they can’t even do simple sums without a calculator. This is definitely something which will only get worse if left unchecked.

    A simple solution would be to restrict the use of calculators in school exams, maybe allow it for whichever Leaving Cert paper is more intensive and ban it for the other one and ban is for Junior Cert. Ignoring arguments about the practicality of algebra and the like, basic numerical skills are something everyone needs.

  6. Mary B Says:

    I don’t know if it was true, but in Shaw’s play ‘Good King Charles’ Golden Days’ Shaw presents Sir Isaac Newton as being unable to complete a simple arithmetical sum without converting it into logarithms. In other words he could do maths but not arithmetic. Some of us (like moi) are the opposite – I still remember all my arithmetic but I never did work out exactly what logarithms were – or all the other sines and cosines and what not!! Presumably we should be taught both!

  7. I’ve read that medieval scholars relied heavily on memorisation. When a manuscript might cost a years wage for a tradesman, it was necessary to be able to memorise them, as you might not have ready access to the book to refer to later. In any event, the number of books was so small, memorisation was a good start point to detailed study.
    We don’t do that any more, and rote memorisation has moved from a central plank of pedagogy to being seen as somewhat medieval. I suspect our calculation skills will go the same way. Whether this is for good or ill, in the long run, I cannot compute.

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