Thursday, 27 October 2011

If you don't use the tools, the tools will use you

@GlblCanuck posted this on our school email today: 

I especially found the last paragraph interesting - a Silicon Valley execs reasons for sending his kids to a school where computers are not allowed in the classrooms.

I'm most of the way through The Shallows and thinking about this as well.

At teacher's college one of the science guys was making a fake website based on elementary science curriculum that had all wrong content in it (so kids would use it to copy out assignments and then fail).  He was very angry that everyone was so focused on content (which can be easily fabricated) rather than building critical analysis and understanding... it was all about the whats and nothing about the hows and whys.  He thought the righteous digital natives who copy and paste as if they had made it had it coming.  Perhaps we need a Doug Couplandism here, "copying and pasting isn't writing."  

If you don't really grok what you're presenting as your own work, you're going to look like a fool.

In relation to the article, digital literacy doesn't replace the traditional kind.  Computers are never going to replace reading, especially deep reading.  But according to The Shallows, the internet might supplant them, which results in shallow, confused, constantly distracted people with no ability to parse complex thought.  Digital literacy should be trying to prevent that outcome, which I fear is inevitable without intervention.

From a Darwinian perspective, if digitization really does turn much of the population into mentally limited stimulus response monkeys with no ability to parse complex ideas, then the rest of us get to take over in a mighty Geniocractic revolution.

If we don't learn how to use the tools, the tools will use us.

I'm ok with that as a social Darwinist and a technologist.  I'm not OK with that as a teacher though, and the kickback I keep seeing through The Shallows and now this article make me wonder if this isn't just the latest in a series of Luddite pushes that rival intelligent design in terms of trying to scare people away from some hard facts.

Computers aren't here to make your life easier, they're here to amplify whatever you do, and if that's sheer stupidity, then you'll only get stupider in front of one.  Using something without considering how it's affecting you is not only ignorant, it's dangerous.

Hence, digital literacy.