One of my most recent tasks was to perform a team teach session with a fellow classmate. We were given the task of reading and analyzing an article and then teaching the highlights to our classmates in a creative and interactive way. Our article was one titled, Outsourcing the Mind, by Gerd Gigerenzer. The article was part of the Edge series, How is the Internet Changing the Way You Think?
The topic of the internet’s effects on our thought processes is certainly one worth exploring and thinking about. Gigerenzer describes a shift in our mindsets that is affecting the way we use the internet and the ways we acquire and retain knowledge.He begins by describing our lives and interactions with the internet as being in a “state of constant alert” (Gigerenzer). Gigerenzer points out our willingness to allow ourselves to be interrupted and commanded, in a way, by our devices. Their constant alarms and notifications distract us on a regular basis and are playing a role in this shift in thinking and processing. It seems to me that Gigerenzer is suggesting that we are learning this behavior of allowing our work and cognitive endeavors to be cut short and managed by technology. More than that, though, he shares that studies are beginning to show that people, in general, are beginning to have a decreasing ability to concentrate over extended periods of time and are, in fact, storing less amounts of long-term memory because of it. He attributes this change to our reliance on technology and our ability to access endless amounts of information at the touch of a button; hence, the term “outsourcing of the mind.”
As my partner and I analyzed and discussed the article, we struggled to determine the “bottom- line take away,” though. Upon early reflection, it seemed as though Gigerenzer was subtly letting on that this was the beginning of the end of our intellectual endeavors as human beings (maybe a bit dramatic, but that’s how I took it). After more discussion and further analyzing the text, however, we decided that he was simply sharing facts. Facts that may seem startling, but in the end, can also help us, as educators, understand the future of our careers and students. This shift does not have to be a bad thing. We decided to assume that this simply means that with less focus on storing trivial information, we will have more time (and possibly effort) to dedicate our minds to the kinds of critical thinking and knowledge acquisition that can’t be calculated on a keypad or answered by a single question typed into a search bar. As Gigerenzer put it, we need to come to terms with the fact that “mentality and technology are one extended system” and we will have to learn how to use this system effectively (Gigerenzer).
So, how do we present this to our classmates and how do we convey to them that they may already be sending information that they once made an effort to remember and store, to the recycling bin in order to make room for new knowledge? First, we created a presentation outline of the text and key terms using Smore.com, which is a
newsletter generator with attractive templates and easy design features. We then created a short multiple question quiz using Kahoot, a colorful, engaging and interactive quiz tool. We created questions that students commonly learn in primary school and played a timed game. We stopped throughout the series of questions to discuss whether participants answered correctly and whether or not they once knew the information in the past. We felt that it was a fun and symbolic way to represent the shift in mindset that Gigerenzer described. We then concluded the presentation with some whole group discussions based on the two following questions:
- How does the learning process change with the shift to outsourcing the mind?
- With this shift of mindset, in what ways are we still practicing the foundational skills of learning (building from prior knowledge, looking for patterns, and focusing on the process)?
As we discussed this questions, I was a bit surprised to realize that, as a whole, there seemed to be much more of a positive attitude towards the information presented in the article. My peers shared that while the shift to reliance on outsourcing the mind is a bit alarming in some ways, it is also promising in others. The possibilities and avenues for learning and exploration are endless. Our discussions reminded me that as long as we, as educators, strive to make our lessons and learning experiences for students relevant and authentic, the trivial facts are, well, trivial. I truly believe that the integration of technology in education, and life in general, is not robbing us of our working minds, it is simply shifting them to mindsets geared toward resourcefulness and efficiency. That doesn’t sound so bad now, does it?
Gigerenzer, G. (n.d.). 2010 : HOW IS THE INTERNET CHANGING THE WAY YOU THINK? Retrieved July 1, 2016, from https://www.edge.org/response-detail/10541
Photos: Captured from my Smore presentation.