Get Technology Off My Back: Teenage POV on the Need for Tech Integration

Tyler Headley is a sophomore attending high school in the Pacific Northwest. He writes for us about tech, the user experience and social media – and his ideas about making changes that match the lifestyle of today’s youth. If you have questions for Ty, please leave a comment below.
When you walk into a high school, you may first think that you’ve walked into a retirement facility. Why? All the kids are hunched over, trying to evenly spread the heavy weight of their backpacks over their backs.
When people think of individuals who have a lot of equipment, they often think of soldiers. Soldiers have to carry a ton of equipment ranging from their guns, to their boots and trademark sunglasses, to their backpacks.
What if I told you that the average high school student has to carry even more tools?
While this may be a bit of an exaggeration, it’s not that far from the truth. On an average day, my school backpack exceeds 26 pounds! The two biggest culprits are the computer and the textbooks, both of which are necessary for school. My backpack is also home to my bulky calculator and cell phone – all four of which are necessities for modern life at a high school.
It may come as a shock to some, but the school library is almost never used (at least for research).
Since the invention of the personal computer, aka the laptop (yes, the thing you are probably using to read this article), libraries everywhere have been hit pretty hard. Now all the information a student might want is located right at their fingertips, eliminating the need to even look up the author’s name to find the book they need.
The computer has also morphed into the center of more than one kid’s life. Why shouldn’t it? One study found that teens spend almost four hours on their computer per day because it is now essential for schoolwork. Computers have revolutionized the way we do schoolwork (I search for my homework, take timed tests online, set up meetings with teachers through email, etc.).
Because we use them so much we are often marketed to on our computers through spam or online ads. If you’re going to market to a teen, please don’t do it through spam. All students hate receiving spam emails and schools usually put incredibly good spam filters on their email servers.
High school. The land of the young hunchback.
The main source of the backbreaking weight is our textbooks. They are behemoth monsters with more than three hundred pages and thick covers. When you say textbook, I think pain. Most textbooks cost an outrageous amount of money, making them not only heavy and inefficient, but also expensive.
With modern technology, I would have expected the textbook to become obsolete by now, but amazingly they haven’t. Many people point to the iPad as the future of the textbook, but with the hefty price and the fact that not all textbooks are available online, the iPad isn’t the future…yet.
The third source of pain for the student is the calculator.
By high school, the calculator of choice (a big hunk of a TI-84) is not only large and hard to use, but it’s also very expensive. With a price tag hovering around $100, perhaps someone will (please) come up with an alternative sometime soon. Some people ask, why can’t you just use your computer? Well, you need to have the entire advanced feature set of a calculator (graphing, advanced functions, sometimes even finding ‘x’ through a matrix), and since time is of the essence on a test, it is much quicker when you have the designated buttons of a calculator rather than having to type the equation from your computer.
It’s not just dial tone, its personal!
These three tools—computer, textbook, and calculator—all cause varying degrees of physical and fiscal pain for students. But what about the phone? Almost every student I know has a phone because it’s great for keeping in touch with friends, checking the latest Facebook post, and calling your parents when you need them to pick you up.
However, phones aren’t used for school work. This is because you can’t type up papers on your phone – it doesn’t have a keyboard, and they’re too small to use for reading books. Can we use them for calculators? No, because either the phone’s calculator isn’t powerful enough or it doesn’t have the features we need (such as the graphing part of the graphing calculators we need for school).
Perhaps there is a way to combine the computer, textbooks, and calculator, but so far nothing does what I need.
The iPad comes close, but doesn’t quite hit the mark – it’s too expensive, doesn’t offer everything a student needs, and is actually a little too large. All of these tools are necessities for students and they all cost a fair amount of money, though are used frequently (and sometimes too much) by students. Students are large spenders, and these tools listed above are the best way to market. So when you visit the jungle of the hunchback (by which I mean a high school), keep in mind that there is no way for them to lose the weight, at least for now.
For the sake of my back, I hope someone can merge these vital resources soon.