Posts Tagged ‘Add new tag’

Goggle eyed or google brained?

October 5, 2009

I’ve just heard another journalist riding Mark Prensky’s bandwagon about how electronic technology is changing our brains.  Nicholas Carr has been speaking on Kim Hill’s Saturday radio programme on Radio New Zealand.

His ideas are perhaps most accessible in a recent article in The Atlantic Monthly, where he asks “Is Google making us stupid?”.  He begins with stories about the difficulty he has in concentrating on what he has been reading and then citing other people who have the same experience.  Well, add me to that list but unlike Carr, I do not blame Google and the Internet for my own infirmities.  When the book is interesting enough like The Da Vinci Code, I have no difficulty concentrating.

Perhaps more telling is his next remark:

Anecdotes alone don’t prove much.  And we still await the long term neurological and psychological experiments that will provide a definitive picture of how Internet use affects cognition.

I couldn’t agree more with his first remark, but has he considered that there will not be any experiments or that the experiments will be inconclusive?

His anecdote about Nietsche in the last years of his life, learning to touch type so he could continue to write even though his eyesight was failing, is an interesting one.  Nietsche’s friends noticed that his writing style had changed as a result of this new way of writing, leading Nietsche to comment “our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts”.   Similar anecdotes can be told about the Roman writer Quintillian when he employed a scribe to write at his dictation and about Henry James when he employed a secretary to type at his dictation.  Unlike Nietsche, they found their writing became more verbose.  I don’t think that these anecdotes prove anything at all.  McLuhan said it all, the medium is the message.  The medium is not rewiring our brains.


We don’t ‘low no natives round here

August 21, 2008

I have just attended the DEANZ conference in Wellington, New Zealand and been struck by how criticism of Mark Prensky’s digital natives metaphor has now become mainstream thinking. While it is high time his views were subject to scrutiny and judged for their worth, I would be concerned that some of his less well promoted ideas might be lumped in with the digital natives idea and rejected without being examined.

In particular I refer to his ideas about the merits of cell phones as teaching tools.  While Prensky’s ideas of how cell phones could be used are not developed, he is aware of the huge potential.  I’ve covered this in earlier posts to this blog and in other media, but the reports of how cell phones are being used proliferate in the media.  The New Zealand Education Gazette 11 August 2008 reports how Nathan Kerr of Onehunga High School sends teaching notes to his students’ cell phones.

However, the merits of this initiative are reduced by Kerr’s Prenskian analysis of his project.   Kerr is quoted as saying “The most important thing to remember about the mobile teaching project is that it is student driven, they know a lot more about the type of technology than I do.”  Well, excuse me, but when did we last hear about a student compressing teaching materials and sending it to cell phones?   Surely what Kerr has done shows just the opposite, that he knows more about the technology than they do?  Prensky has a lot to answer for.

The second question about why other teachers aren’t using mobile technology is not answered in the media reports.   The answer to that question does swing the debate back in Prensky’s direction.  Many teachers and school administrators see cell phones as threats, not as opportunities.  Accordingly, money is not budgeted for these new approaches and teachers are discouraged.   When a teacher provides the resources themselves, they are met with obstacles, prohibitions and downright hostility.  As I have said in other posts, there are systemic obstacles to adopting new technologies, not so much the digital immigrants imposing their ways of life on the natives, but a Praetorian guard working to preserve the power of the elite, who talk the need for change while working behind the scenes to prevent any change threatening their way of life.