How Technology Can Tank Your Success in Class: Part I

The technology you think is making you more productive is actually holding you back.

Stever Robbins
5-minute read
Episode #431

College is expensive. You’re paying $200 an hour to be there. And you use technology to help because you’ve used it since you were two and it’s melded with your brain on a biochemical level. You’re pretty much the Borg.

But you know all that great tech that’s supposed to make your mind super-human? It actually doesn’t. It makes you feel like a super-human while your brains slowly atrophy and you end up at a disadvantage in both college and the real world. If you don’t make sure to develop your brain the right way, you’ll miss opportunity, fail over and over, and die in a gutter smelling of cheap bourbon. Fortunately, however, you’re listening to this podcast. And in just five minutes, we’ll change all that so you can tone down the technology and pump up the human achievement.

Take Intern MG (please ... take intern MG). MG is the practically perfect college student in almost every way. He checks his syllabi by smartphone, takes notes on laptop, emails his assignments, and is sure he’s racking up perfect grades. He’s headed for a 4.0 GPA as relentlessly as a convertible full of frat boys during Spring Break heads towards a case of Natty Lite. 

Or so he thinks. Then, he gets his mid-semester report. He got an A-minus in Perfectionism 101. While he’s working through it with his therapist, let’s review what he did wrong.

Despite his great habits at work, MG’s tech works against him. In lectures, he half pays attention, and half surfs the web. Or his phone. Or watch. Or FitBit. He raises his hand for class participation, but his comments often repeat someone else’s, or they’re off-topic entirely.

To engage well at school, it’s important to understand where technology isn’t the best solution. Fortunately, he has me to enlighten him. I wish I were that lucky!

Technology restricts you in important face-to-face situations

I noticed in college that in-person learning from someone who understands the material (that part is important) helped me learn better. In-person learning includes subliminal cues like word choice, facial expressions, and reactions that seem to matter when learning. That makes sense, since humans evolved to learn from each other. In fact, you learned language without knowing language to begin with. Think about that. 

If you have the chance to learn face-to-face from someone who knows their stuff, take it. And put your attention on the person who knows the material. That’s the professor. The web, Facebook, and Instagram will still be there after class.

Use non-technological solutions

Since computers replaced more efficient, effective ways of taking notes and learning, you’ll have to recall and relearn those more efficient, effective habits. That requires tools.

Grab yourself a paper notebook, a good pen, a good pencil, and a good eraser. Now instead of taking notes on your computer, take them on paper. When you take notes on paper, you can also use all kinds of creative, brain-enhancing techniques like mind mapping. You can also check out my article on how to take killer notes.


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.