I often reference my own learning experiences from when I was a high school student. When students or even younger siblings
comment on how time consuming a research paper is I always revert back to the story of my freshman year of high school when the internet was not common place. Where research meant stacks of books, libraries and things called encyclopedias.
The response I receive is often half joking and half shock. Students can’t imagine a day where the millions of resources weren’t available at the click of a button. With the many resources the internet provides today education has become a “faster” process, but has it become faster at the cost of quality? There are many opinion pieces on this very subject. Some sight the
advancement of technology throughout the years as in an article entitled, Is Google Making Us Stupid, where author Nicholas Carr debates the pros and cons of the internet and the mega search engine Google. Here he shared this piece of history:
“Sometime in 1882, Friedrich Nietzsche
bought a typewriter—a Malling-Hansen Writing Ball, to be precise. His vision
was failing, and keeping his eyes focused on a page had become exhausting and
painful, often bringing on crushing headaches. He had been forced to curtail
his writing, and he feared that he would soon have to give it up. The
typewriter rescued him, at least for a time. Once he had mastered touch-typing,
he was able to write with his eyes closed, using only the tips of his fingers.
Words could once again flow from his mind to the page.”
Cleary the advent of technology in
1882, in the form of a type writer, altered Nietzche’s writing ability for the
better when it came to ability, but did it affect the quality? He goes on to note that the style and tone of
his writings in fact changed over time.
One could argue, was it the technology that changed or was it his emotions,
feelings and opinions that changed due to the change in his ability.
Technology has certainly always played
a part in education. From the advent of
quill, ink and paper to today’s computers and internet; people’s mediums for
learning, sharing and recording have vastly changed. There was a time when research meant just that,
searching and not searching in the sense of typing in a word or phrase to the
Google search bar and hitting enter. It
meant going to the library, finding the section of the resource you needed,
finding the book using the Dewy Decimal System (this is where my students and
siblings alike remind me I show my age) and scour through pages of information
to find what you were looking for. I may
be showing my age again, but kids today, have it a lot easier. With a simple click of a button they can have
unlimited resources (more than a single library’s worth) in front of them; and
it isn’t just reserved to text. Their
searches provide text, photos, videos, sounds and more! Is this really the age of technology that is “dumbing”
down society? Or it is simply altering
the way we search? Is our process
becoming streamlined or are we falling into the pit of simplicity where
machines do the thought provoking work and we fulfill the part of the equation
that monkeys at the Columbus Zoo could perform?
I was sitting at my desk at work the
other day and was trying to read a document.
I read it three times, each with the same result; I couldn’t tell you
one thing that I had just read. I
stopped, looked up and said, “tens of thousands of dollars in higher education
and you can’t focus on three paragraphs”?
My first thought was adult ADD. I
must have caught it, along with that lovely cold that is going around; sorry
folks this is my attempt at humor, Carol Burnett I am not! Then I realized, my computer, aka brain was
in over drive. It was making those
clicking sounds and was showing the spinning circle where the mouse pointer
should be, but nothing was coming happening.
I was trying, but nothing. Too
bad your brain doesn’t have a control alt delete option! But at this moment I recalled all the
articles read this week, and the once challenging blog post that I had been
struggling to write, began to all make sense.
My thought process somehow changed over time from my early days in high
school to my now gulp, almost thirty year old self. Not only had my tools for learning and
processing information changed, but the manner in which I processed the
information had changed too! But then
the challenge came; was I smarter or “dumber” because of this. So I did what any type A, control freak would
do…..spreadsheet of pros and cons. Be
warned…what follows is free flowing thoughts from my unfiltered brain. Continue at your own risk!
|The Internet||Has made more information available at the
users’ finger tips than any other invention in the history of mankind. Unlimited information.
|Has simplified the “search” for information
and has made the process easier and less thought provoking.
|Attention spans due to the internet||Thanks to the speed of the internet,
information is available at a faster rate, making attention spans less imperative
to daily life or daily routines.
|The “control alt delete” brain. In the quest for information faster and more precise; the computer has taken over the portions of our brains thatprocess thoughts and comprehend some of the most mundane information
resulting in shortened attention spans and a harder time comprehending
|The process of thought||Thanks to the information “now” world the
internet has provided, thought processes are faster in the sense that actions
that used to take 10 steps now can be processed out in 7; result: answers and
solutions in a faster time frame.
|The process of thought is less internal and
more external. People bypass steps,
thoughts and processes in order to come to a conclusion in a faster time
|Deeper Thinking, Learning and Reading||The amount of information that the internet
provides opens more avenues and opportunities to read information, process it
and “think more deeply” on the underlying meaning of the text at hand.
|The information may be more vast, but are we
processing the information and thinking “deeper” or are we allowing a machine
to process the information for us and we simply regurgitate it out in menial
In an article entitled, “Literacy Debate: Are You Really Reading, If
You Are Reading Online” by Motoko Rich, the debate of technological devises
and the internet are presented in relation to old fashioned books and
newspapers. It is here that this
question is posed,
“As teenagers’ scores on standardized
reading tests have declined or stagnated, some argue that the hours spent
prowling the Internet are the enemy of reading — diminishing literacy, wrecking
attention spans and destroying a precious common culture that exists only
through the reading of books. But others say the Internet has created a new
kind of reading, one that schools and society should not discount. The Web
inspires a teenager like Nadia, who might otherwise spend most of her leisure
time watching television, to read and write.”
Check any poll that is conducted and I
guarantee the 18-30 demographic will overwhelmingly show that information is
attained from the computer screen, Ipad, Kindle or smart phone and not from
holding an ink filled piece of paper. And
schools are starting to take notice of this.
Many classrooms now use laptops with online text books or E-Readers in
place of books. Not only is information
more streamlined, but there are many who believe that comprehension can be
improved; as can school district’s budgets.
Many districts have found that e-books and technology are a more cost
effective way to provide students with the most accurate and up to date
information. Yes, test scores may not prove this to be a
true statement, but here is food for thought: are these standardized tests
being given using paper and pencil or computer?
Are the results skewed by the blatant difference in medium? Is it in fact comparing apples and oranges? This debate is one that will not be answered
here today, but certainly provides food for thought. In the end the questions of , “ Does the web
facilitate deeper reading, thinking and learning”, can be answered in one word:
Maybe. The answer is yours to fill in; as you can see there are pros and cons
to the internet and the process of thinking and learning. In the end I believe there isn’t a solid
black or white answer, but a gray answer; an answer with many hues and shades
that in every circumstance can provide a different answer and shed a different
light or shadow on the subject.