Video: The School / Tech Balance

There’s a pervasive theory that Digital Natives – that is, people brought up with digital technology and the Internet from an early age – are instantly familiar with new forms of tech and have become overly reliant on their devices. Indeed, some hold that their reliance on technology works to their detriment when it comes to schoolwork. We found that the situation is more complicated and nuanced than you would expect.

Enter Chad, Logan, Danielle, and Shenali; four first-year students who answered the call to help the editors of Digital Learning better understand how technology shapes their experience at Northwestern. Chad and Logan are engineering majors at McCormick, Shenali a communications studies major at the School of Communication, and Danielle is still in the process of determining her course of study at Weinberg. They each represent four distinct educational experiences at Northwestern regarding the integration of technology in their schoolwork.

To give us a better sense of their experience, we sent them off for a week armed with their smartphones and an assignment – take a few seconds of video a couple times a day when you’re working on something related to school and let us know if tech does or does not play a role in that activity. At the end of the week, we brought them all back for an interview to see what stuck out to them about their experiences.

While their interview responses were all unique, interestingly, a few common remarks began to stand out:

  • Students are using tech in some way all the time
  • The use of technology, specifically laptops and smartphones, is completely interwoven throughout their personal and academic lives
  • While they do feel generally adept at adapting to new technologies, they sometimes feel overwhelmed with the number of systems they are asked to learn
  • A simple network of integrated tools gives them – and their instructors – the best experience inside and outside the classroom

The footage they provided from their week-long experiment has now been culled together to tell the story. How do Northwestern undergrads balance school and technology? Find out below:

The School / Tech Balance from NU Digital Learning on Vimeo.


The editors of Digital Learning offer their sincere thanks to Shenali, Danielle, Logan, and Chad for their candor and camera work! Best of luck on your journey through Northwestern.