Students must find balance in age of technology

Sophomore Education major Rudy Castillo reads “Nine Stories” by J.D. Salinger outside of the Ozuna Library

Sophomore Education major Rudy Castillo reads “Nine Stories” by J.D. Salinger outside of the Ozuna Library.  Photo by Matthew Hall.

You can find Richard Valdez, a sophomore Psychology major, like you do most students in the Student Center: finishing homework in the loud cafeteria, hunched over a small screen, while scarfing down his meal.

Valdez carries around homework for classes, music, apps and contact information on his iPad and other devices.  Despite the convenience of these devices that students receive, high prices and privacy concerns have some students clinging onto older technology, like CD’s, vinyl records and books. These modern-day Luddites leave more technology out there for Valdez and others to grab.

Student sits in cafeteria working on his laptop.
Sophomore Computer Engineer Major Abraham Romo catches up on homework on his laptop in the Student Center.

“It’s like a door. It’s an opening to a vast amount of knowledge – vast amount of resources,” said Valdez, who is also a keyboardist for several local bands. “I use my MacBook for recording. I use my iPad for light performances. I use my phone to be connected to everybody.”

A lifestyle dependent on high tech has drawbacks, such as price, distractibility and security. During the first week of the fall semester, Alamo Colleges experienced a cyber-attack, which brought the dependency issue into focus.

Jesse Martinez, spokesperson for Alamo Colleges, described a Denial of Service intrusion in a district-wide email that kept students and teachers from access to their Canvas and ACES accounts. IT restored all online services within 24 hours of the attack.

Professors, such as Communications instructor Gregory Pasztor, weren’t able to communicate with their online classes during the cyber-attack, leading to a rocky start at the beginning of the semester.

“Those are some of the pitfalls of moving everything online,” said Pasztor. “The IT people here at the district are getting better at defending against that sort of stuff.”

Pasztor, like other professors, prefers to grade papers online so his students can receive feedback faster and on their own time.  However, he believes students must manage the amount of technology in their own lives.

“There isn’t a right or wrong,” said Pasztor, who says digital technology should be used as tools. “It’s up to us to choose how we allow them to affect our lives.”

The Ozuna Library’s large supply of books and tech resources gives students choices that incorporate their personal preferences. After an 18-month renovation, Ozuna re-opened in August with 20 new computers on the second floor library, 180 on the first floor computer lab and the latest in Windows and Microsoft office updates on all computers.  Not only does the staff at the library hope to add new tablets, laptops, e-readers and e-books for students to check out, but they’ll also continue to add to their collection of books, which numbers 89,000, according to Tina Mesa, dean of Learning Resources.

As the Library adds to the number of resources for students, no one is ready to get rid of books. Even Valdez, who has physical textbooks for his classes this semester, believes the importance of preserving physical books for future generations of students.

“I don’t think you should confine a book to just a flat piece of screen,” said Valdez. “Technology is very useful for what it is today, but in the wrong hands it could be just something stupid.”