June 14, 2010

The internet is making you stupid

I got a subscription to Wired again - mostly because it was free.  See, every year I get dozens and dozens of two-liter bottles from our open house and scavenge the codes on the bottle caps (please, more Coke products and fewer Pepsi products for future years) for points on MyCokeRewards.com.  This year I managed enough points for a free subscription to Wired, continuing my pattern of getting magazine subscriptions, letting them lapse because something about the magazine annoys me, then later renewing the subscription because only the positive parts of the magazine rest in my head.

So, I have a subscription to Wired and occasionally find some awesome articles within.

This month's absolute gem is titled "The Web Shatters Focus, Rewires Brains" which codifies many of the thoughts that I've been having about internet usage and its effects on the brains and learning styles of users - particularly on the students that I am currently teaching.

Some selected quotes:
"By keeping lots of brain cells buzzing, Google seemed to be making people smarter. But as Small was careful to point out, more brain activity is not necessarily better brain activity."

"When we go online, we enter an environment that promotes cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning. Even as the Internet grants us easy access to vast amounts of information, it is turning us into shallower thinkers[.]"

"A 1989 study showed that readers tended just to click around aimlessly when reading something that included hypertext links to other selected pieces of information. A 1990 experiment revealed that some “could not remember what they had and had not read.”"

"She found that comprehension declined as the number of links increased—whether or not people clicked on them. After all, whenever a link appears, your brain has to at least make the choice not to click, which is itself distracting."

"The Internet is an interruption system. It seizes our attention only to scramble it. There’s the problem of hypertext and the many different kinds of media coming at us simultaneously."

"We willingly accept the loss of concentration and focus, the fragmentation of our attention, and the thinning of our thoughts in return for the wealth of compelling, or at least diverting, information we receive. We rarely stop to think that it might actually make more sense just to tune it all out."
Check out the full article over at Wired's website.  I'm thinking that I'll be handing it out early in this coming year for my students - or throwing it to our advisory folks to get it read by all of our students.


Slug said...

No use in giving it to them, they won't give it anything besides a skim. Haha.

But the article is interesting (I also have subscribed to Wired.) It just seems to me that the Internet wasn't designed to have a thought based experience and only to quickly transmit data, which it does.

PHSChemGuy said...

I'm going to print it out, at least then they won't have to work through the links to distract them.

Every medium is designed for communication one way or another. Books are for long, slow reading. The internet is for quick hits of info.