Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ Is Technology Making Us Smarter? Yes!

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Jul 03, 2017

This Magazine Article published as Is Technology Making Us Smarter? Yes in The Costco Connection Volume 30, Number 4 15 Jul 03, 2017. [Link] [Info] [List all Publications]

To understand the ways technology is making us smarter in 2017, let's examine the ways we are told technology is making us less intelligent.

- One study says "Using digital platforms such as tablets and laptops for reading may make you more inclined to focus on concrete details rather than interpreting information more abstractly."[i]

This is because when we use digital technology to communicate with people around the world, we realize that few generalizations are actually true, and we're less inclined to leap to them.

- Another study says we tend to scan digital media rather than reading articles from beginning to end.[ii]

This means we are reading more efficiently. Instead of simply consuming content, we are making judgements as we read. Because reading takes so much less effort, we can look at many things and focus in on the ones we want.

- Digital media encourages multitasking, which a UCLA study tells us makes it more difficult to learn and remember.[iii]

Becoming better at multitasking makes us more able to adapt and thrive in a complex environment. Learning isn't simply about consuming content remembering it; it's developing the skill to keep one's eyes and ears open and to recognize and react instantly, even if we're doing something else.

- Our use of technology is changing our brain so that we become less deep and contemplative when we use digital media, says another report.[iv]

This is called 'plasticity' and is one of the key advantages humans have over animals, which must rely on instinct. Instead of simply learning by remembering, we learn to learn quickly and efficiently.

Yes, we think and learn differently when we use technology. But we become less set in our ways, more able to adapt to changing information, and more able to make judgements. These are all ways of being smarter, not less able.


[i] Digital media may be changing how you think. Science Daily.

[ii] How Little Do Users Read? Jakob Nielson.

[iii] Don't Talk to a Friend While Reading This. UCLA.

[iv] The Internet May Be Changing Your Brain In Ways You've Never Imagined. Carolyn Gregoire, Huffington Post.

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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