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Using Digital Technology is Good...RIGHT?

We live amidst powerful but untested assumptions. Access to the wealth of information is good...RIGHT? The proactive use of links within a digital document is good...RIGHT? Involvement in a multi-tasking technology environment is good...RIGHT?

Author Nicholas Carr has surveyed the research on questions such as these...and his answer is WRONG...with some wiggle-room! Consider these observations, based on the research results of psychologists, neurobiologists, and educators:

  • The on-line environment promotes cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning...turning users into "shallow thinkers, literally changing the structure of our brain."
  • Though hyperlinks seem a powerful "non-linear" option for learning, they disrupt concentration and weaken overall comprehension.
  • When people read text on-line, they start to read faster and less thoroughly.
  • Some positive effects have been found...the cognitve skills strengthened by computer use involve the more "primitive mental functions" such as hand-eye coordination, reflex response, and the processing of visual skills...and possibly, it strengthens brain functions specific to fast-paced problem solving (e.g. identifying patterns in a large amount of data).
Combine all of this with the meta-review in 2009 of Patricia Greenfield, a developmental psychologist. Her conclusion: "Every medium develops some cognitive skills at the expense of others. For example, current gains in sophisticated visual-spatial skills are at the expense of a capacity for "deep processing"...so necessary for "mindful knowledge acquisition, inductive analysis, critical thinking, imagination, and reflection."

So, your thoughts or reactions, given you are reading these comments on-line? And, what are the implications for using digital technologies (computer programs, the Internet, calculators...or possibly even manipulatives) in the learning of mathematics?

Source: Nicholas Carr's The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brain, 2010