When I asked my parents what tools they employed to obtain and product knowledge during their school days, I received mixed responses.

They definitely did not have access to the technology that we currently possess. However, that doesn’t mean that their method of synthesizing knowledge was any less effective. They didn’t have iPads or computers during their teenage years and, instead, relied on memory, numerous pages of notes, and collaboration among friends to obtain knowledge effectively. In tandem to in-school experiences, my parents also heavily relied on family – brothers, sisters, parents, grandparents – to obtain knowledge: my father told me some of the most useful lessons he learned (both in life and academically) was through interactions with his six older siblings – they would spend hours each day doing their homework together. My mom echoed much of the same sentiment as she described the hours spent practicing handwriting – “your generation doesn’t even need to do that anymore! You kids can just type it!”

Interestingly, halfway through my “interview,” they began to lament the effects of technology on teenagers today and conveyed something along the lines of: “technology ruins the experience of education!! When you’re sucked into a screen, there is no room for independent thought.”

From their experiences, I can see that their methods of obtaining and creating knowledge were just as, if not more, effective than modern practices. Although writing an essay took twice and long, my parents were better able to understand the importance of each individual word. Personally, I can’t even imagine going to school armed only with a pencil and paper and consider my laptop to be one of the best outlets for academic creativity. To be fair, I have attended a local Chinese school for two years (without a laptop), but even then, I was still able to access library databases and extracurricular support in a way that my parents would not have even dreamed of receiving.

I guess that even as time moves forward and learning techniques adapt and change, the determining factor isn’t really the different ways in which one can synthesize information, but rather the amount of dedication and interest one shows in the pursuit of knowledge.