I'm not a caveman!
Saturday, February 27, 2010 10:29:26 AM
This in mind, my eyes caught a similar title in a Web design magazine that I came across at Stansted airport this week: "What's the web doing to our head?" Like Nicholas Carr, Dr. Gary Marshall from UCLA discusses the flattening out effect of internet use on our brains, though from a more biological point of view, and questions the benefits of search engines. Online readers are compared to cavemen and people with 'magpie minds'. Web constructors say they simplify their designs to our literal-capacity brains. I found that rather upsetting : now that I've finally worked my way into the web, blogging and glogging and twittering - I find myself intimidated by web critics and psychiatry gurus. My digital progress will cost me my brain? And even worse, what am I exposing my pupils to?
Fortunately, amidst the insults I was assured of some posetiveness in all the hours I spend zapping from site to site. Experiments at Harvard and Princeton universities show that by finding quick information, the students' brains actually release dopamine, a natural feel good kick that we often relate to sex, extreme sports or - in its artificial form - to drugs. Quite comforting to blame superficial surfing habits on a chemical reaction! Therefore Maryanne, I read because of how I am and not vice versa.
And I am not making my pupils stupid by introducing them to digital tools. Both articles reason for power browsing as a new form of reading and a new way of being, that we should embrace as we did with other major inventions, yet at the same time promote awareness of the possible risks. A British Library study signals one such risk: pupils tend not to take the time for critical evaluations and cross checking sources in their need for speed. Some teenagers even thought the search engine did that work for them! This underlines once more the importance of teaching source criticism in class, as Espen focused upon in his blog. So by informing my pupils of both pleasures and dangers of 21st century reading, I might just make them smarter.
I do agree that in-depth reading asks for a more traditional setting and that we should not do away with paper reading. I do however not combine deep thinking solely with deep reading. Just reflecting upon our multimodal poem compositions in Hildegunn's class, I see a lot of deep thinking emanating from such quick digital reads. I'm not a caveman just because I like short entries, I'm a well educated multitasker, who uses her time efficiently and continues other work, pondering about the input. Deep thoughts can emerge at any time!