Why might someone argue that technology decreases our ability to think for ourselves?Why might someone argue that technology decreases our ability to think for ourselves?
There are many types of technology to consider, as well as a broad range of types of students, but I will focus on internet use with my middle school students. The internet is the first stop many of my students make when they are conducting research. Their reliance on this specific type of technology is not always a positive thing, for a couple of reasons. First of all, students tend to believe that if they find it on the internet, it must be true. Secondly, they believe that there is no reason to use real books when the internet is available. Thirdly, they often believe that cutting and pasting from internet articles is completely acceptable, and fourthly, they have not learned to merge different sources of information to provide support for a specific idea or thesis. These are issues that educators at all levels are going to have to deal with; in this case, technology has created a situation where students aren't thinking about a topic, or evaluating the credibility of resources. They must receive specific instruction on these things at every level of education, starting when they are in elementary school, or we are going to have an entire generation of people who don't know how to write without plagiarizing.
I think that the Internet has certainly made students less discriminating of sources. When questioning my junior classes, many see research as simply typing a question in to Google then printing out the top two or three 'hits'. That said, it has meant that as a teacher I am more aware than ever of the need to teach research skills, how to skim, scan and summarise texts, how to cite sources properly and how to objectively analyse sources. I find that there are adults (and dare I say it, teachers) who need to refine these skills too.
There is the benefit that research and information accessibility being so speedy is a stimulus for study. I recently came across an obscure Disney animation on Youtube that I had used for my Master's thesis. In the distant past when I was studying, I had to book the video at the British Film Institute and spend a five-hour round trip to watch the film. Now it takes minutes to see the film again and again.What else could I have achieved in the time it took for me to access this resource? Now we can work smarter if we choose to...
Well, considering much of our technology was designed to think for us, I think this is a valid argument! Forget about the incredible modern technology we are blessed with today, ... let's go back even further to another "modern" little gadget: the calculator. By design, the calculator is designed to do simple mathematics for us, automatically decreasing our ability to think for ourselves if we use that little gadget.
However, as with everything else, there is another side to this argument. Technology, the internet for example, can also present us with new ideas that we would never have thought of previously, thereby helping us learn MORE. It's not longer hard to look up these previously unknown theories. They are, literally, a click away! A good thing!
So, in short, everything in moderation. Let's just not live up to the horrors of Disney's Wall-E, okay?
The main reason for this is that technology gives us the ability to find answers that others have found before us instead of coming up with answers on our own. This was always possible to some extent, but now it is much easier.
The internet is the greatest example of this. A student can now look on the internet and find all sorts of commentaries about various works of literature. They can find discussions of all sorts of topics in history. In the past, it was extremely difficult to simply look up, for example, what someone thought about the presidency of Andrew Jackson. Now, it is very easy to do so by using Google.
Because of this, some argue that we use technology to look up answers rather than thinking things through and coming up with our own answers.
I think that technology has made people lazy in terms of calculating mathematical problems. I have seen a vast decline in math skills in all of my science classes, particularly in the past 20 years. That is because without a calculator, most students are unable(sadly) to perform even the most basic of mathematical functions. I also believe that while the internet is an amazing tool for instant gratification of attaining knowledge, sometimes students think that just because something is online, it is valid and correct. I try to encourage my students to use other sources of information to back up any research they are doing and not simply rely on the internet.
One factor is that very often the sources found through the most common form of technology related to education--the computer--are not primary sources but rather secondary sources that present summations of primary information or opinion on primary information. This eliminates the opportunity to read the voice of original thinkers and writers, which is traded for a homogenized professional voice, and join in their conversation with readers across centuries (or less time). Thus the need for analysis and original critical thought on the student's part is greatly reduced.
Simply because we are able to access information and in particular answers far more rapidly and easily through the use of the Internet than we have ever been able to in the past. I see this all the time as an English teacher. When I studied, to write an essay involved careful reading and re-reading of the relevant texts to identify arguments and supporting quotes. So often my students just go onto sparknotes or find an on-line essay that does the hard work for them.