Using Your Brain

Here’s an interesting article that appeared in Times of India this week. Interesting – but, in my view wrong and missing a fundamental point. The major premise of the article is that Google and online ‘search’ is causing a long term impairment of people’s brains – because information is too easily and readily available to them.

Google spoon-feeding damaging users brain (2)

If we look at this from an educational context and ask what we should be using our brains for, I believe that far from suggesting that the easy availability of information is ‘dumbing down’ our brains I would suggest that for the first time in the history of man our brains/ minds are freed up to be used for really high value thinking, rather than mundane rote memorisation.

There was a time when I would need to either memorise or keep a written record of all the phone numbers, addresses (even Birthdays) of the people important to me. getting all that information stored away inside my head required considerable effort.

In the learning context such a lot of time needed at the base level of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning meant very limited time to be spent at the other levels; understanding knowledge, applying it, analysing, evaluating and even creating it.

Educators now have the opportunity to acknowledge that thanks to Google search and other technical innovations the best thinkers will no longer be those who have invested time to accumulate the biggest body of remembered data, but rather those who most creatively synergise data from different sources, those who can apply, analyse and evaluate most effectively.

Think of the amount of time that could effectively be freed up in classrooms if we acknowledge that the children don’t need to know vast bodies of facts, but instead could invest time in learning how to guage and understand the quality of data and reflecting on how they feel about the material.

It was many years ago when i studied law. On my first day, 110 expectant new law students were ushered in to the lecture theatre for a welcome from the Dean of Faculty. I still remember clearly how he told us that the best lawyers are not the ones who memorise statutes and vast bodies of case law so that they ‘know’ the answers, but rather those who are most effective at finding the right knowledge and putting it to good effect. Sadly, I also remember the sense of betrayal over the next three years as we were tested and evaluated entirely through standard exams where success required us to memorise word for word large chunks of statutes, case law and legal judgements.

We now live in a time when we can truly liberate students from the drudge of rote memorisation. Far from dulling minds I believe this can really free them up to engage in meaningful learning and thinking.

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3 Responses

  1. I agree, I feel that not having to spend so much time memorizing things has allowed me to spend more time actually analyzing them, and seeing connections between topics. We need to be like the law school students, where we know where to find what we need, and use it, instead of memorizing something and not knowing what it means.

  2. I have just finished going through the weekend homework my 10 and 71/2 year old have done.They were supposed to collect information for their respective projects [ elder one had to chose a famous personality to write a Biography on.He chose Jimi Hendrix !! And my younger one had to find information on on Wrestling as part of his project on CWG,India!!] I must admit that my boys do not like to read books[except for their literature appreciation class with Saraswati!!!] Well,both were given some time to go through Google sites & not only did they READ but they also sifted relevant information ON THEIR OWN!! I am impressed with both of them!! so, its THANKS to GOOGLE for adding an exciting dimension to the process of self study!!

  3. Well..article is right as well.

    We see that almost all problems have solutions available on internet. This leaves less chance to analyze problem by itself.

    E.g. What would you say to trend, specifically true in developed countries where kids are getting their assignments done online for a fee?

    -Ashish

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