Twitter Makes You Stupid
“TwitterMakesYouStupid. Discuss,” tweeted NY Times editor Bill Keller. “Give a little credit to our public schools!” was one response. “Nuh-uh!!” was another. In the end Keller concludes, “Whether or not Twitter makes you stupid, it certainly makes some smart people sound stupid.”
Keller gracefully argues that the new technologies may be eroding useful parts of our brains like the capacity for reflection, empathy, and a sense of community just as the invention of the Gutenberg’s press reduced our ability to memorize huge quantities of prose. Keller’s concern, he writes, “is less about the cerebrum than about the soul.”
Keller has reason to be concerned, I think. “Digital writing,” writing using a computer or other device connected to the web, is the technology terminology du jour. A new book by Elyse Eidman-Aadahl at the University of California, Berkley, suggests that schools need to focus on communication through integrated media, required in college and later in a student’s career. And tech savvy teachers report they are integrating film, visual aids, and other multimedia techniques into their students’ reports and stories with great success.
The other day I wrote a about the capacity of kids to understand that different media have different rubrics. I do not think that tweeting or texting or using multimedia or “digital writing” will make our kids stupid. My concern is that the technology alone cannot take the place of thoughtful reflection and analysis and cogent reasoning. Giving second graders iPads to write stories will not magically make them better writers and thinkers. (Remember the pictures of members of Congress tweeting during the President’s State of the Union address?) The technology, however, may encourage kids to write and they may have a lot more fun in the process. And they will be particularly pleased with their final product if the teacher has taken the time to work with them on the critical thinking skills necessary to produce writing worth reading.
In other news, I had an interesting radio interview yesterday with Rae Pica on the BAM radio network. The topic was,"Are parents different now from the way they used to be?" Pica seemed convinced they were,and wondered what advice I would have for teachers. The other interviewee was Lenore Skenazy, of "free range kids" fame. Not so sure we had a lot in common, but it made for interesting conversation. I'll let you know podcast time.