Sunday, January 8, 2012

My cup runneth over...

Though it pains me to admit, I have not yet finished The Digital Divide.  I have, however, traveled to visit family, celebrated a holiday or two, knitted on the year-and-counting afghan, celebrated my daughter's birthday, moved to a new office, conducted meetings, continued planning for two courses this semester, read other books and worked on a remodeling project.  In between, I've taken to photographing random cemeteries.  I'm not slacking, just over-committed.

But I have made progress in my reading, slowed somewhat by my long-standing tendency to write in the margins of the book, make connections that compel me to seek other sources ("Now where IS that quote that seems to say this in a different way?"), and allow time for what I'm reading to rumble around in my brain.  It's the rumbling that seems to yield the most benefit, especially when considering conflicting perspectives:
"In geography--which is all but ignored these days--there is no reason that a generation that can memorize over 100 Pokemon character with all their characteristics, history, and evolution can't learn the names, populations, capitals, and relationships of all the 101 nations in the world.  It just depends on how it is presented."
"One of the most interesting challenges and to figure out and invent ways to include reflection and critical thinking in the learning (either built into the instruction or through a process of instructor-led debriefing) but still do it in the Digital Native language."  
"(T)oday's neurobiologists and social psychologists agree that brains can and do change with new input.  And today's educators with the most crucial learning missions --teaching...the military--are already using custom-designed computer and video games as an effective way of reaching Digital Natives.  But the bulk of today's tradition-bound educational establishment seems in no hurry to follow their lead."
"Three unexpected sources can help us negotiate the historical transition we face as we move from one prevailing mode of communication to another:  Socrates, modern cognitive neuroscience, and Proust."
"Teens' poor performance (relative to adults when navigating unfamiliar web sites) is caused by three factors:  insufficient reading skills, less sophisticated research strategies, and a dramatically lower patience level."
"As the brain evolves and shifts its focus toward new technological skills, it drifts away from fundamental social skills, such as reading facial expressions during conversation or grasping the emotional content of a subtle gesture."

When I review the quotes, I am exhilarated, concerned, frustrated, hopeful, and overwhelmed.  On the whole, it's good news that we can understand (as least some of) the impact of technology on learning.  What concerns me, though, is the tendency to divide the world of knowledge into discrete camps, forgetting, for example, that reading narrative text and being forced to reflect upon the meaning is a different skill from rapid identification and absorption of information...and that both are required for success in navigating a complex world.  It's not either-or; it's both-and.

The web of knowledge existed long before it was digitally connected and it was already a lot to absorb.  Perhaps that's been the draw to the cemeteries--a tangible reminder of the finite and the infinite...and what belongs where.  One semester at a time...

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