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Desliga o Google e pode ser que aprendas alguma coisa

Outubro 14, 2010

Um interessante artigo que debate o impacto que as novas TIC têm na forma como se ensina e aprende

Amplify’d from www.smh.com.au

Turn off Google and you might learn something

The federal government’s digital education revolution is designed to change the way children are taught to prepare them to “live and work in a digital world”; no doubt a laudable objective. Technology will not retreat and there’s little likelihood of 21st century Luddites ransacking the Googleplex any time soon.

Illustration: Simon Bosch

But, while seeking to take advantage of everything the online world can offer the students of today and tomorrow, education planners must also consider the costs associated with the view that technology should be implemented wherever possible. If, as writer Nicholas Carr in The Shallows and others argue, excessive use of the internet and other forms of technology diminishes our capacity for deep, meditative thinking, “the brighter the software, the dimmer the user”, a counter-revolution may be required.

The plasticity of our brains is such that the wiring is never constant; new connections are formed, while old ones are strengthened, or wither through lack of use. Research shows that areas of the brain associated with decision-making are highly active during internet use; cognitive overload, however, impacts on our ability to think deeply. Not only are we often very distracted when online, but the sections of our brain associated with deep, meditative thinking can become less efficient through lack of use.

The tools humans develop always give in one sense, take away in another. “When a ditchdigger trades his shovel for a backhoe,” writes Carr, “his arm muscles weaken even as his efficiency increases.” As useful as a GPS can be, is it likely to improve a driver’s sense of direction? Hence, curricula must be developed not only with the potential benefits of technology linked to every learning outcome in mind, but also the costs.

It is not a matter of sweeping away the reforms promised by the government’s revolution but, rather, developing curricula flexible enough to ensure technology is available where there is clear utility, to remove it when there is not. Within Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority documents relating to the new national curriculum, there are numerous references to technology and the need to foster critical thinking skills, but nothing to suggest contradictions may arise by pursuing these goals simultaneously.

The Shape of the Australian Curriculum documents for history and maths both state: “An important consideration in the structuring of the curriculum is to embed digital technologies so that they are not seen as optional tools.” Precisely where and how broadly they are embedded will be the issue here.

A teacher asking their students to start researching a topic by sifting through shelves in the school library can expect quizzical expressions in response, their advice ignored. Students know they have significantly more information at their fingertips, surfing the internet.

As a senior high school teacher, one of my greatest bugbears is the reluctance of students to reflect on the information they have collected and plan their essays. Rather, some expect to Google their entire essay, often skipping from one hyperlink to the next until they find something that appears to be relevant, then pasting it into their essay, frequently oblivious to academic honesty and coherence of argument. The ability to discern reliability of sources is also severely lacking. These issues may well have existed in different forms 20 years ago. Today, the challenge is to teach research skills through the internet (the students’ medium) while encouraging them to digest and reflect on the data collected, before they begin to write.

Yet, the mere suggestion that excessive internet or mobile phone use has a negative impact on how humans think, learn and express themselves provokes a generational divide. Students correctly perceive that many of their teachers are out of touch with new technological developments. A colleague recently presented a review of Carr’s book to his class. As expected, a number of students were passionate in defending their connected culture. It’s similarly common to hear or read older folk spruiking modes of learning alien to the youth of today; spruiking the merits of their beloved codex, threatened by the e-book revolution. Others of us, raised in the non-digital world, but matured in the digital world, straddle this divide.

Of greatest importance, however, is the status of our thinking, understanding how we think and the effect new technologies have on our cognitive processes. This debate extends beyond the neuroscience to questions relating to what is worth knowing and what mental functions are worth preserving at their present level of development. Such questions must be central to education planners, current and future.

We can certainly outsource our memory, for example, to the internet and a computer hard disk. “Biological memory is alive,” Carr reminds us. “Computer memory is not.” Hence, awake to the myriad benefits of new technologies, we must be mindful of any cost associated with allowing ourselves to devolve to a more machine-like state.

A primary role of educators is to foster qualities that are distinctly human: our ability to reflect, reason and imagine, for example. In the curricula of tomorrow this may entail identifying topics and tasks that begin with an instruction to turn all electronic devices off.

Read more at www.smh.com.au

 

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