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.
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:
- “Human” as Being Special and Always Better
- Longer Always Being Better
- Privacy Always Being Better
- Depth and Always Being Better
- Slower Being Better
- “One Thing at a Time” Being Better
- “Brain Science” Providing All , or Even Enough, Answers
- Relying on “Tried and True” Solutions in New Contexts
- “Reflection” Being Slow
- “Expertise” Meaning “Knowledge and Analysis of Data” and of Expertise Coming Only from Professionals
- Short Attention Spans
- “Limited Capacity” and the Need for In-Person/Online Trade-offs
- The “Cultural Now”
- “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 Dumbest Generation – Mark Bauerlain
- The Shallows – Nicholas Carr
- Hamlet’s Blackberry – William Powers
- Alone Together – Sherry Turkle
- Blown to Bits – Philip Evans & Tom Wurster
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.
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. **
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