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Intelligence in the age of Google - speaking notes

Intelligence in the age of Google - speaking notes

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Published by John Koetsier

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Published by: John Koetsier on Oct 30, 2009
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07/14/2014

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Intelligence in the age of Google

WHO SAID THIS? "People who invent new technologies are not the best judges of their usefulness and value. Your invention will not help people to get smarter and learn more; it will in fact cause the exact opposite … they will forget more and learn less. You have not invented a better memory but just a way to search for thoughts. And the students who use your invention will not in fact acquire real-world knowledge but rather data. They will think they know much when in fact they are incredibly ignorant. And because of this misconception, they will be a burden to society." - Thamus, the king of a great city of Upper Egypt … via Socrates … 2500 years ago

WHAT IS INTELLIGENCE? What did it mean to be intelligent in ancient Greece? - great memory? think of poets and their loooong songs/histories - reasoning? - verbal ability? What did it mean to be intelligent in medieval times? - could read and write - memory - books - knew Latin - knew the Bible What did it mean to be intelligent in the 19th and 20th century? - memory still a big deal - sources - books What about today? What does it mean to be intelligent today? - are you as smart in person as you are on Skype, when you have access to Google?

OK … let's define intelligence … - 1800s Francis Galton, a cousin of Charles Darwin, measured scientists' head sizes to determine intelligence (no correlation was found) - Alfred Binet: intelligence is not a single thing; it's many - Gardner, 1993 book on Multiple Intelligences … problem solving (including the ability to create new problems: creativity) 1) Linguistic intelligence; 2) Logical-mathematical intelligence; 3) Spatial intelligence; 4) Musical intelligence; 5) Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence; 6) Interpersonal intelligence; 7) Intrapersonal intelligence - going to settle on problem-solving: the ability to get stuff done. (And dream up new stuff to do.)

WHAT IS THE EFFECT OF GOOGLE? One of the reasons I wrote a paper about Google and intelligence is Nicholas Carr's 2008 article "Is Google Making Us Stupid," which was published in a trade magazine, the Atlantic Monthly. Car is primarily concerned with the effect that the web in general, with its preference for immediacy and brevity … which he argues tends to reduce our ability to focus and concentrate for long periods of time … our ability to engage in what Carr and others call "deep reading." The google generation, however, is dealing with far more than just a distractible multitasking mindset. Google and its competitors may be fostering other attitudes which are inimical to deep learning as well. Does Google, for example … - makes us think that everything has an answer? - makes us think that all answers are findable? - makes us think that answers should come quickly if we can just search for the right words? - makes us less dependent on our own thinking and more willing to be dependent on others? - makes us think that everything should be knowable after a quick 5 minute scan of a web page? When I interviewed a high school teacher about this question, here's what he had to say:

"Since Google, students need an answer quickly, so they don't know how to use a glossary or index. They want something right away, and to look back to a previous paragraph is too much effort." and "At times it may end up giving people a real quick fix to a problem and they may not be actually forced to think it through." He’s actually saying two things here. First, that students in some cases are seeking quick answers that others have created – received wisdom, so to speak - so they don’t have to undergo the intolerable mental stress of building interlocking edifices of conjectures that lead to principles. And second, he’s saying that not only have students in some cases lost their desire to undertake the heavy intellectual lifting that is part of the traditional learning process … they’ve also even lost the ability to personally seek for answers. After all, why read or even scan an old-fashioned dead tree tome when a multicolored electronic butler will do it for you? That’s a serious challenge to an education system. Regardless of whether teachers are using digital or analog tools, if students don’t want to figure out the answer and also won’t strain themselves to find it personally, teaching anything beyond search and retrieval skills starts to sound like a significantly difficult uphill battle. This veteran teacher’s statement sounds eerily similar to comments reported by technology writer and author Nicholas Carr, who wrote the widely-discussed article Is Google Making Us Stupid in mid-2008. In it, Carr cites pathologist and educator Bruce Friedman, who recently confessed that he has now “almost totally lost the ability to read and absorb a longish article on the web or in print." What's going on here? Some researchers have suggested that it's easier to teach (and to learn) about rather than how … (Bencze and Bowen). About is a series of facts … how is facts marshalled, corralled, organized, combined with deep understanding and exploited in the service of a goal. Does Google privilege about over how? Or is that just continuing a native human tendency? This is something to study further. But we know from as early as McLuhan that media are NOT neutral. We're not going to solve this today, but it is worth noting that many researchers also believe that digital technologies are unleashing significant educational a opportunity. Fischer and Konomi talk about technology and media helping us to “transcend

boundaries in thinking, working, learning” by harnessing "distributed intelligence" (2007). In “Learning in the Age of Networked Intelligence,” Tuomi postulates that blogs are more important than formal certificates, and immersive social games will become the textbook (2007). And Google can marked improve our ability to get things done and solve problems … one of the key factors in intelligence. - provide the one missing fact instantly - provide a wide range of options Some of this is obvious; much is not. The key thing is likely the need to integrate new capabilities with old skills. As the teacher who I interviewed said, "We're all tempted to take the path of least resistance,” he said, but we need to be able to use all kinds of resources, including print, and be able to work from first principles to more complex knowledge. He saw the need for so-called “21st century” skills, including synthesis of many different resources to create something new, or at least a new perspective. Researchers are talking about "emerging multiliteracies in a connected, web2.0 world" (Alexander, 2009). While developing those new literacies, we need to ensure that we do not uncritically rely on modern oracles … which has always been a dangerous step. We need to realize that instant search and retrieval is not intelligence; it is fuel for intelligence. That fuel can be utilized and harnessed with 21st century skills … but not at the cost of some very basic 20th century skills. A quick example is math skills: without a solid grasp of math fundamentals, the higher orders of mathematical thinking are forever closed to people, regardless of how many Google searches they do (Lee, Stansbery, Kubina, Wannarka, 2005). Deep knowledge is needed to free up short-term memory slots. So here’s the sythesis: we need 21st Century Skills … without losing some of the 20th century smarts. Without the “21st Century” skills, we will not be able to cope with the never-ending datastream. Without the 20th century smarts, we will not be able to do more than parrot, and sometimes rearrange, ideas that others thought before us.

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