I sincerely believe that Maryanne Wolf, Richard E. Miller, and Nicholas Carr all propose valid arguments about their take on technology’s influence on present day learning and education.  I think Wolf’s philosophy that children should develop an expert reading brain and learn to deeply analyze what they are reading before navigating any sort of technology is a very smart, practical approach.  She thinks that developing these skills is important for a solid foundation, and once the foundation is laid, children can move on to using digital technology.  Her argument is relatively concise and straight-forward that it is of the utmost importance to be able to read and interpret material for deeper meaning, and that we are in danger of losing this skill if we are not careful.  However, her outlook seems to be one of worry, whereas Miller takes a more opportunistic, optimistic approach.   Miller sees this reinvention of the way things are presented to be an exciting evolution.  He feels that mediums such as the internet are an incredibly valuable tool for expansion and collaboration.  He says, “[T]his is anything but an apocalyptic moment.  It is a time that invites invention, creativity, improvisation, and experimentation.”  Carr elaborates on the same concerns that Wolf expresses.  He feels that society could be headed toward the existence of computers that are actually more human than humans.  In other words, he feels that the heavy reliance on technology will cause humans to be more machine-like and that our intelligence will “flatten into artificial intelligence.”  To me, each point raised is relevant and legitimate.

connected-globe-net-1000save humanity

It seems that these authors represent three different areas on the spectrum of opinion when it comes to technology and education.  Carr clearly sees the rapid advancement of technology as an impending threat on the human mind, while Miller seems to be both grateful and excited for this new world of opportunity for intellectual expansion.  In my opinion, Wolf sits right in the middle when she argues that digital media is alright to use as long as it is used responsibly and with the proper prerequisite training.

At the risk of appearing indecisive, I find it impossible for me to completely agree or disagree with any of these viewpoints.  In my opinion, each take on this topic has validity.  I do worry the way Wolf and Carr do about how our brain’s reliance on fast, easily digestible doses of information will affect our intelligence and our humanity.  A point that Carr makes that I love is that  deep reading, which Wolf feels is synonymous with “deep thinking, ” sets off  “intellectual vibrations” in our minds, and that “in the quiet spaces opened up by the sustained, undistracted reading of a book, or by any other act of contemplation . . . we make our own associations, draw our own inferences and analogies, foster our own ideas.”  I think this is an important point to make, and this ties back to Wolf’s stance that there should always be a place for good, old-fashioned reading.  Personally, I feel the effects of the immediacy of information on the internet, especially when I am trying to focus on an assignment (such as this one).  It can be difficult not to open a new tab and search Facebook or listen to music when I am supposed to be focusing.  At the same time, however, I also feel gratitude and excitement like Miller for the many opportunities that technology will lead us to.  Something that he states in his article is about how video is a medium which makes “the process of thinking visible.”  This statement really strikes me because it is such a positive view on new ways of communication, processing, and sharing information.  Rather than video being less valuable than traditional ways of sharing thoughts, it is simply a different way.  Part of me feels that just because the way in which we gather, consume, and interpret information is different, this does not mean that our thinking is less valuable or effective.  Thinking is thinking, no matter what, and just because I am consuming information differently, I do not think it is necessarily less important or rich than if I had to read a long book to get the same information.  There are many things that I know at this point in my life because of the lucky fact that I can access it so quickly.  If it were not for the internet, I might never have discovered much of the fascinating information that I am now so passionate about.

human robot

Regardless of opinions, technology can and will advance further, so we have no choice but to move through this change rather than find a way to avoid it.  I suppose if I were to choose who I agree with most, I would have to say Wolf, simply because she is willing to move into the future while still honoring and respecting the practices of the past which have been tremendously valuable to humanity.  As many math teachers have told me in the past, a calculator is only as good as the person using it.  We as humans hold all the power when it comes to technology, and we are responsible for how we use it.

Advertisements