Wednesday 7 July 2010

The Shallows? I think not...

Click icon for more
book review blogs
@Barrie Summy
This is a book review, but I haven't read the book. That might be shameful, but I cannot remain silent, not after many years doing reading, research and making presentations on learning and the brain.

The Shallows; What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. by Nicholas Carr

His premise is that we are becoming shallow thinkers, with minimal sound and text bytes our brains are developing differently. I think he confuses behaviour of young people, as evidenced by text messaging and those doing business. This presumes that our brains change when, as adults, we spend little time reading books and more time twittering. I think not. Reading is a lifelong habit. As is thinking.

Students spend much time in good classrooms, reflecting upon what they read and right. One cannot negate years of schooling with 20-something behaviour! Our brains are shaped by the activities which we pursue. Whether our brains vegetate depends on what we do or don't do. And the Canadian educational system is vastly different from that of the US.

Others write: From Is Google Making Us Stupid?
The Atlantic, July-August 2008

I think not. We have access to more data, but that doesn't mean we think any less about it. One of the big things I had to teach students was 'compare and contrast'. This happens all the time in my friend's blogs.
The more information we recieve, the more we sift through it to determine its accuracy.

This book club is a prime example. We are all avid reader/writers.

Some eschew books and literature at the best of times, and computers mean that they are reading text. Many are reading, thinking, reflecting,  posting and commenting on-line. Those of us who like reading are still reading. Many of us are not sitting like potatoes in front of TV as we engage in thoughtful, funny, fun and reflective interaction with family and friends.
Our family sits and reads about society, education, and politics and discusses it.

Most of the people I know balance their lives.
Most of us balance work and play.
I spent a 25-year career reading for work. I now can do research for fun. I am not thinking any less, or any less deeply. And we ensure that we take time to interact with nature. Many bloggers are quite keen about sharing photos with readers. I am one.

Many ads have appears for supposed Brain Games, which are being marketed to a frightened senior's population. There are doubts that things like this actually builds 'brains'! The ability to think depends upon building dendrites. These are the connectors that allow brain cells to communicate with each other. It can't hurt, but their claims are faulty, much like babies listening to Mozart in utero makes them smarter!!! It is just that the brain uses the same neural pathways, and said dendrites, to process information, as it does when listening to music. Companies are trying to make money off seniors, as they did with parents. This is a presentation I gave on Brain Research:  
There is a huge difference, too, between quick reaction times, and actually thinking, as many games do not require 'thinking'.

Save your money. Keep on exercising, playing, volunteering, eating well, thinking, reading, listening, talking, and socializing with others. Diseases like Alzeimer's, and its associated dementia, is a result of plaques and clogged arteries, not a lack of thinking or using a computer.


Yogi♪♪♪ said...

I don't know. I have seen full grown adults start checking emails during meetings and then suddenly go, "what did you say, demanding that we retrace items that they missed while being distracted."

I can read a book for hours but i have no patience for television anymore.

Jenn Jilks said...

Ah, Yogi. That is just bad manners or stupidity. I can check e-mail and listen to a meeting! If I am chairing a meeting and they ask, I boldly say we are moving on!

The new electronics require that we teach people how to treat us, too.

When we all get on our e-mail, it is a stress reliever. All sleep deprived, we were reading our morning newspapers online. It is parallel play. But it is balance.

And TV, I did a post about that, too.

W.C.Camp said...

I tend to agree with your thoughts. The only thing though is my father(75) trained himself NOW to do those cryptogram puzzles in the paper without a pen. So he will memorize the patterns of words and start to 'Think' about the letter substitutions until he comes up with the correct answer - sometimes in fifteen minutes, other times a whole day. He has done about 140 puzzles this way. He also does crosswords regularly. I think it is GOOD exercise for the brain no matter what you do that requires concentration. So if it is writing, reading, puzzles, or even quick blogging - it's ALL GOOD! Nice Post! W.C.C.

Anonymous said...

Actually it may be hearing loss. I can't hear without concentrating and without my CI I have to look at the person. Of course my deafness is an extreme example as I can't even make notes at a meeting but someone not hearing when they were concentrating on another task that uses the language centres of the brain implies that their hearing is not what it could be.

I don't check emails or anything else in a meeting but I do get distracted and if I do miss something I ask for it to be repeated. I would be appalled if the Chair refused to allow clarification.

I have had to train my brain to hear again with my CI. The brain is a remarkably plastic organ that in my opinion benefits from being stretched, the more you do the more you can do. I have seen people relearn tasks after a CVA when they have very little brain tissue left.

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

Interesting. And I agree with you.

The author sounds elitist -- there is nothing to stop him from doing research or reading the old-fashioned way, but it sounds as if he is angry that news and opinions and research are now more easily available to the rest of us!

I do worry about newspapers disappearing -- because I can't imagine reading the comics on my laptop while I eat breakfast! OK, I'm shallow, but the Internet didn't do it, honest!!

VioletSky said...

I have been thinking about this issue as well, having recently heard/read several interviews with this author.

I find the internet meets my needs to get bits of information on a particular subject without having to wade through piles of pages that has more than I ever want to know. There are many things I would not have looked up were it not for the web.

I joined Facebook strictly to play Lexulous (scrabble) but I find it frustrating that the best way to win is to simply place your letters anywhere until the board accepts a word. Many times, accepted words are not in several of the dictionaries.

Anonymous said...

Interesting points and something I've wondered about. Technology isn't good or bad in itself - it just reveals people for who they are - if somebody was behaving stupidly before technology, that's who you'll see behaving stupidly with technology. lol!

Unknown said...

We saw him "interviewed" on the Colbert show and he had a hard time keeping up with Stephen.
Latest research shows are brains able to grow new cells. Good news!

Sarahlynn said...

I love your closing advice, and all the laptop photos!

(Unrelated note: the word verification thing below is an actual word, and NOT one I'd share with my children. Odd.)

Barrie said...

Very interesting. I was talking the other day with a friend (another mother). And we had noticed how our teens interact with each other in differently than we did as teens. For example, if a group of teens is in my living room watching a movie, at least half of them are texting with people (usually people not present, but sometimes they're just texting across the room). So, they're involved in a social situation, but not completely

Linda McLaughlin said...

Jenn, I take your point, but I'm not sure who I agree with. Though I still read, sometimes a lot, I've found that my concentration isn't what it used to be. I'm not sure whether to blame it on the distractions of modern technology or aging. It's interesting to think about though.