reflections on being a student in the 21st century:
“Perpetual Motion” by destinazione_altrove (feat. Donnie Ozone) via http://ccmixter.org/files/destinazione_altrove/42765
On September 25, 2008, Nicholas Carr appeared on the Colbert Report to promote his new book. In the interview, he speaks of an evolution of the Internet into a “worldwide computer,” and talks about the increase of people using the Internet as an online storage space instead of their individual computer. Carr says that the Internet and Google are useful, but he also sees a problem due to how much the Internet is used. Carr’s concern is that people are starting to think like the Internet. That we are ‘starting to act like the tools we use,’ and “think like a computer,” “jumping from piece of information to piece of information.”
Carr thinks that we are losing the ability to think deeply because of the Internet. I find this laughable.
Carr believes that the Internet has caused people to lose the ability to stay focused on one thing, that we are losing our ability to concentrate, reflect, and contemplate. He is concerned we are losing our ability to “slow down and think.” Carr suggests that “we’ve become so connected to everything, that we are actually disconnected from any one thing.” He says he has noticed that when he reads a paper book, “something that used to come naturally,” he finds that his mind ‘starts to wander’ and wants to do what it does when he is online.
The Internet does allow us to quickly jump quickly between sources of information. But this is not the same thing as the “superficial relationship with information” that Carr is afraid of. The Internet permits the exact opposite of a “superficial relationship,” because it allows an individual to look beyond any one source of information, and produce their own connections between the material they find. The investigation of related information is a form of deeper thinking. It can be the contemplation of one subject, at a far deeper level.
When I read this in Adult Learning: An Overview by Stephen Brookfield (1995):
After criticisms that the emphasis on self-directed learning as an adult characteristic was being uncritically advanced, that studies were conducted mostly with middle class subjects, that issues [concerning] the quality of self-directed learning projects were being ignored and that it was treated as disconnected from wider social and political forces, there have been some attempts to inject a more critical tone into work in this area.
it reminded me of a Bridges out of Poverty training I once attended and how there has seemed to be something missing in the theories of adult learning that I have explored so far. Despite the attention to tailoring the learning experience to a learner’s roles and experiences, there may be an assumption in the background that fails to factor in the complexity that poverty adds to needs of adult learners.
I raise this as a point to consider because the Bridges out of Poverty training identified profound differences in how various populations process information, communicate and make decisions. As the summary of a related book by Dr. Ruby K. Payne points out, these differences tend to be “virtually unknown” to people with middle class or wealthy backgrounds, which does make me wonder about how the impacts of class divisions and poverty have been considered by adult learning theorists.
The Internet seems capable of making class divisions more profound and acute. There is already a sharp divide between those who have access to the internet and those who do not. As the field of online education develops, it seems important to acknowledge the class-based differences of learners in order to reduce the risk of replicating and strengthening class divisions that can exclude populations from the educational opportunity of the internet.