In a weak moment almost found myself agreeing with Miranda Devine’s piece SMH. Her article starts off well enough talking about how we crowd our day with processing data streams, and how Barack Obama and Paul Keating have implored us to have ‘ real thinking time’ during each day.-fine long been acknowledged (secular sebatical). But then she goes on to discuss ‘new brain theories’ (always a worry in the popular press). She quotes Norman Doidg’s work on brain plasticity- then makes the leap of inference in saying -this theory has profound implications for internet usage on the brain. Quoting from trusted sources such as The Atlantic monthly which in a recent article claimed the Internet may be stopping us excercising the brain muscle- making it flacid (shame on you Google). She talks of “the new skittish brains of children, dumbed down by not needing to learn real facts”- helping align her argument to her pet theme of school curriculums being ‘dumbed down’. She cites other brain researchers (Susan Grenfield)- who warn that use of the ‘net’ means teenagers are constantly operating in a two dimensional world- which will physically alter the brain. Even if one accepts ‘plasticity’ theories’ Doidge’s work is being misrepresented here- again we have the a mythconception (remember the TV doomsayers)- that any new medium doesn’t allow for deep critcal thinking. Three points to make here:
1. the internet allows for a different set of cognitive skills- those associated with rapid information processesing, network theories (connectivism), and social constructionism to name a few. Divine ignores theories of socially constructed learning.
2. rote learning of facts does not constitute ‘deep thinking’
3. the Internet is going to facilitate the way the mind needs to evolve for skills relevant to the C21-it is in itself a global neural network