Has the Internet destroyed our ability to think deeply?

Recently some papers were distributed amongst some of the senior staff about the devices in education. One campus of the school has been very proactive in exploring and transforming the learning environment and has well and truly started that journey. The other campus has had it's issues with infrastructure, but that is another story...

 

Much of the following is my response to a teacher whose comments were formed through the reading of 'The Shallows'. The argument was that the research is suggesting that the things we are in danger of losing, as we embrace the Internet and digital tools to transform the learning environment are:

1. Our capacity for deep reading (focused, concentrated reading that leads to the formation of deep thinking)

2. The development of long term memory schema which provide us with a greater capacity to think deeply about everything we experience.

3. The ability to think deeply about a topic because we are so driven by technology to think shallowly (eg. Google is built to distract- the more clicks, the more revenue they get etc etc)

I find much of what was argued to be really interesting, yet not sure I completely agreed. ...And not sure I want to disagree with the research that was presented -just my points of thought. Firstly, the way I read the papers that were shared was that they were presenting devices in education, not merely the Internet in education. I would be HUGELY disappointed indeed embarrassed if transforming learning was limited to teachers using the Internet.

Anyway, to my ramblings about the Internet being the reason why we are becoming shallow thinkers. A couple of points supporting the internet and thinking.

  • Throughout the masters papers I am doing, I have been completely amazed that all the academic reference material I have needed (and then some) has been available on the Internet. Thanks to google scholar, the there is a whole plethora of articles and research papers avaliable. Not to mention a dispository such as ERiC, or ProQuest!
  • I have also been completely amazed at the fact that when I have not been able understand the content of some of the papers due to the way they have been written and my obviously inadequate vocabulary, that the Internet has been able to enlighten me to a better understanding.
  • I have also been amazed how, if I do not understand a new concept because of the way it is unpacked in the particular paper I am reading the is an abundance of other papers (and oftentimes videos or audio files) on the same concept that has unpacked it in a different way which I do understand.

From my experience, although I do not understand the finer details of neuroplastisity (although I am sure my understanding in the subject would deepen if I took the time to look into it on the Internet), the Internet has, without a doubt, deepened and broadened my understanding in many areas.

I am the first to admit that I am it an expert neuroscientist, so who am I to say anything contrary to the book in question, but it seems that used well, the Internet is for from the enemy to deep thinking, it is the empowerer and oftentimes the catalyst.

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