Domestic, Elementary / Primary / Junior, High school / Secondary 2, Required, Students - Written by on Thursday, March 8, 2012 13:00 - 0 Comments

Heard: Pew Research Shows Kids’ Cognition Morphing … Will Education?

by jannem via flickr under cc

Researchers at Elon University and the Pew Internet and American Life Project gazed into the future of the Internet and how it will affect the cognitive future of today’s youth as they put out a recent report. It surveyed 1,000 thought leaders, asking them about how the world is changing for better and worse as applied to young people and their cognitive abilities. The experts said the impact on education will be profound.

“There is a palpable concern among these experts that new social and economic divisions will emerge as those who are motivated and well-schooled reap rewards that are not matched by those who fail to master new media and tech literacies,” said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project and co-author of the report. “Many of the experts called for reinvention of public education to teach those skills and help learners avoid some of the obvious pitfalls of a hyperconnected lifestyle.”

The experts offered strong, consistent predictions about the most-desired life skills for young people in 2020. Among those they listed are: public problem-solving through cooperative work (sometimes referred to as crowd-sourcing solutions); the ability to search effectively for information online and to be able to discern the quality and veracity of the information one finds and then communicate these findings well (referred to as digital literacy); synthesizing (being able to bring together details from many sources); being strategically future-minded; the ability to concentrate; and the ability to distinguish between the “noise” and the important messages in the ever-growing sea of information.
Megan Garber at The Atlantic writes:

The survey found, overall, what many others already have: that neuroplasticity is, indeed, a thing; that multitasking is, indeed, the new norm; that hyperconnectivity may be leading to a lack of patience and concentration; and that an “always on” ethos may be encouraging a culture of expectation and instant gratification…

The study’s authors, Elon’s Janna Anderson and Pew’s Lee Rainie, also found, however, another matter of general consensus among the experts they surveyed: that our education systems will need to be updated, drastically, to suit the new realities of the intellectual environment…

This is not a new argument – it seems both entirely appropriate and entirely obvious that the Internet will engender a necessary revolution in education as a system and as an assumption — but it’s striking to see the idea expressed by so many experts, across so many different fields. The survey containing their thoughts is well worth a read; it offers a great overview of the general thinking about the Internet-cognition connection, not to mention some thought-provoking — if broad — suggestions about where we go from here.

Garber notes that all the new skills can be taught. But the question is: ”whether kids will learn them in school, or outside of it.”

Via The Atlantic

Deborah Netburn writes in the LA Times:

According to recent data collected by the Pew Internet Project, 95% of teens 12 to 17 are online, 76% use social networking sites and 77% have cellphones.

But whether the tweeting, Google searching, texting, Facebook chatting lifestyle of the “Always On” (AO) generation is creating a savvy group of information gatherers who skillfully harness the power of collective thinking, or if a crippling reliance on the Internet will create a generation of shallow and easily manipulated drones with no attention span — well, that’s up for debate….

The results were split, with 55% of respondents saying thanks to the Internet kids today are learning to crowd source information and quickly locate answers to deep questions, and 43% saying it’s not looking too good for the future of deep thought…

Almost all agreed that in the future there will be a distinct set of skills that young people will need to be successful, including knowing how to solve problems through cooperative work and knowing how to quickly and efficiently find information on the Internet and just as quickly determine if that information has any value.

The most depressing comments in the report came from teachers — those dealing with the AO generation day in and day out — who almost universally bemoan the loss of attention span and ability to think critically in their students.

“Technology is playing a big part in students not only not being able to perform as well in class, but also not having the desire to do so,” wrote one teacher who has been teaching at the college level for 12 years.

Another professor wrote: “Every day I see young people becoming more and more just members of a collective (like the Borg in Star Trek) rather than a collection of individuals and I firmly believe that technology is the cause.”

Via The LA Times

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