COLUMN: From campground to college, science and tech changed little


Dan Hahn

Dan Hahn is a graduate student studying English and can be reached at 217-581-2812.

Dan Hahn, Columnist

My favorite thing to do on vacation is to go camping.

I like to “rough it” as it is called. I cook food over an open flame on the ground, sleep in a tent, and use primitive versions of a bathroom for showering and maintaining hygiene.

But, even when I go camping I rely heavily on the comforts and conveniences afforded to us by the advances in science and technology.

The tent I sleep in was likely designed on a computer. Likewise for the sleeping bag I sleep in and the foam pad that separates my back from the hard ground.

The food I eat out of a can was likely created using state of the art food processing technology.

Even if it wasn’t, the canning technology of decades ago is quite impressive, and meals cooked over a fire are tasty, cheap, and easy to make.

Even though it’s easy to take advantage of technology in primitive environments, technology hides itself quite well, and has not really changed the experience. One could argue, it makes experiencing the great outdoors accessible to more.

Eastern students, faculty, and staff are an incredibly fortunate bunch. I’m a remote student so I have discussions and submit my homework online.

My rented text books are mailed to me every semester, and I get to read academic journals through online databases provided by the library.

Who doesn’t love a good academic journal delivered through a database? A database, of course, that we have to unlock with our phones because we live in the age of two factor authentication.

Being able to get a college education from a distance is a wonder of science. In the old days, if you wanted to take a class from a distance you would have to be enrolled in a correspondence course where you would mail your homework to your teacher!

Remarkably, the instructor would grade it and then mail it back!

Even though these correspondence courses are now delivered through the tubes of the internet, the post office remains! Technology again made things better, but it didn’t really change much.

If you’re an in-person student with a luddite instructor you still enjoy the benefits of having teachers who likely study the literature on teaching techniques that have been researched and refined rigorously by their own experiences as well as their academic colleagues. 

The next time you have a great class and learn something remarkable in an interesting way, take a second to think about the kind of forethought that went into the your teacher’s lesson plan, you might think to yourself: behold the technology of academic progress!

While I’ve only visited the Charleston campus once, I bet the Wifi is something most people take for granted.

The information technology infrastructure it takes to run a school is tremendous. Not to mention the old school brick and mortar infrastructure needed to keep streets maintained, garbage picked up, and the lights on.

Now all the rage in technology seems to be about the ChatGPT artificial intelligence that can write as good, and in some cases better than a college student.

It is pretty remarkable, it’s as if the computer from the Start Trek series finally woke up and it’s here to serve and entertain us all.

The Atlantic published an article recently called “The College Essay is Dead.”

Let me tell you something: no it’s not. Like the calculator in the math class, ChatGPT is just another tool, and it’ll stir up some controversy now, but in the end it won’t change much.

Students pondering if they should use it to write their next essay should forget about it.

The technology already exists to detect whether you use sources that are not your own. In addition, teachers and higher education administrators are reshaping their academic honesty policies as well as their lesson plans.

In a world where sleeping on the ground and eating food cooked over a fire is easy, college life is remarkably cozy, so why try to cheat?

Artificial intelligence use in the classroom may present a challenge, but it’s not going to change the great institution of higher education.

At least not that much. So, no matter how smart the technology seems to get, your best resource will always be your own willingness to work hard, ask questions, and learn something new.