Book Review

#BookReview – Brain Gain: Technology and the Quest for Digital Wisdom

A late add to my #summerreading list was Marc Prensky’s Brain Gain: Technology and the Quest for Digital Wisdom. With the start of the semester underway, I finally found some time to review this book. 

Added to my #summerreading list...

The premise of Prensky’s new book looks at how technology is changing and enhancing our minds with digital wisdom:

“Human culture and context is exponentially change for almost everyone. To adapt to and thrive in that context, we all need to extend our abilities. Today’s technology is making this happen, and it is extending and ‘liberating’ our minds in many helpful and valuable ways. Our technology will continue to make us freer and better — but only if we develop and use it wisely” (Prensky, 2012, p. 2).

Prensky shares how technology will “change our minds” to learn new things and produce new thoughts. With our gadgets and technological capabilities, we are able to extend our minds, heighten our cognitive surplus, increase our thinking powers and improve our thought process and concentration. As Albert Einstein stated “a new type of thinking is essential if mankind [and womankind] is to survive and move to higher levels” (Prensky, 2012, p. 35). It might be time to outsource some of our brains limitations, including memory, storage, accuracy, complexity and prediction, to a technological source. Prensky believes that by using technology we have an advantage to be “better thinkers who make wiser decisions and choices” (2012, p. 52). Much of our decision-making can come from the symbiosis of the mind and technology.

Although technology is often viewed in a negative light, this book identifies ways we enhance our “digital wisdom” via technology. Prensky defines wisdom as “the ability to find practical, creative, contextually appropriate and emotionally satisfying solutions to complicated human problems” (2012, p. 45). In contemplating the arguments against this idea of being wise with technology, the author introduces several fallacies, including:

  1. “Human” as Being Special and Always Better
  2. “Genuine”
  3. Longer Always Being Better
  4. Privacy Always Being Better
  5. Depth and Always Being Better
  6. Slower Being Better
  7. “One Thing at a Time” Being Better
  8. “Brain Science” Providing All , or Even Enough, Answers
  9. Relying on “Tried and True” Solutions in New Contexts
  10. “Reflection” Being Slow
  11. “Expertise” Meaning “Knowledge and Analysis of Data” and of Expertise Coming Only from Professionals
  12. Short Attention Spans
  13. “Limited Capacity” and the Need for In-Person/Online Trade-offs
  14. The “Cultural Now”
  15. “Wisdom” as Coming Only from Humans

Throughout this book (especially in Chapter Three) there are a number of examples of digital wisdom to demonstrate how the mind and technology function well with one another. Also scattered throughout the text, there are a number of references to other great technology-focused reads – many I have on my “to read” list or just added. Here are a couple of suggestions you might like shared by Prensky:

The book continues to share examples of digital cleverness and digital stupidity, with suggestions and examples on how we all can be smarter with our technology software, hardware and digital presence. Prensky continues to share how to cultivate digital wisdom in our personal life, at work and finally in education:

“Cultivating digital wisdom means being intellectually curious and active, continually expanding one’s online universe rather than sticking with the same things, and continually bringing more of the new world into our lives” (2012, p. 182).

Although Prensky touches on his former definition of “digital natives,” he digresses to move towards the need for educators to get comfortable with developing wisdom in classrooms with technology. The skills identified with digital wisdom and technology include collaboration, teamwork, decision-making, taking risks, making ethical and moral decisions, employing scientific deduction, thinking laterally and strategically, problem solving, and dealing with foreign environments and cultures (Prensky, 2012). The final chapters discuss the real dangers, things to be wary of, acknowledging problems to fix them, and evolution of the human as being impact by technology and singularity.

Overall, I think much of this book summarizes the impact of technology and our brain power with gadget and tech consumption. Prensky presents a decent summary and tries to synthesize how our thinking, actions and learning have changed – by curating and compiling examples and theories in a digestible way for the reader. Although the concepts are not novel, I think a number of readers will appreciate the concepts put forth around digital wisdom and technology.

Reference:

Prensky, M. (2012). Brain gain: Technology and the quest for digital wisdom. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

**Full disclosure: This book was sent to me by the Palgrave Macmillian publishing group to review on my blog. Thank you for the read. **

CCK09, Learning Community, Learning Technologies

Visitor or Resident?

“Transparency is related to openness. Openness is most often related to content. Transparency, in contrast, involves making our learning explicit through forums, blogs, presentations, podcasts, and videos.” ~ George Siemens, Week 8: Openness and Transparency

Participation in #CCK09, the entire course thrives on learners and educators who are open and transparent in the learning process. David White joined the #CCK09 class to discuss his ideas on how Visitor and Resident learners impact the online educational environment [session recording].

Visitors & Residents: Original Blog Post & Presentation

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Much of this conversation was initiated with the JISC funded Isthmus project which was designed to bridge the gap between institutions and online learning, specifically how learners are utilizing technology. Instead of using the terms ‘digital native’ and ‘digital immigrant’ (coined by Marc Prensky in Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants 2001 publication), White sees learners as being a Visitor or Resident in their motivation for online education. Here is a quick Visitor vs. Resident comparison chart I created based on his presentation:

Visitor vs. Resident

In thinking about my own experience, as an online learner, I seem to fall in the ‘Resident’ category. I am very transparent and open online, and I am comfortable sharing my learning experiences and social experiences digitally. Although I am a resident, I can recognize a few visitor experiences from time to time, i.e. learning new tools, online resources and expanding my personal learning environment perimeters.

In thinking of the Visitor vs. Resident comparison, it is critical to think of it as a continuum rather that distinct categories. Students should not be labelled definitely into these categories since it is fluid. Each learner may have boundaries and limitations, however possess a willingness to be an open, online learner. As an educator, it is critical to create a learning environment online that provides structure and purpose online, while allowing learners to expand their creativity and knowledge as they see fit.