Technology vs. Intelligence?

“I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.”                     – Albert Einstein

Jason Lodge takes a critical stand against technology in education in his recent article “Education in the information age: is technology making us stupid?” on The ConversationHe underlines his thesis with the argument that modern education cannot keep up with the information overflow induced by the internet. Furthermore, he uses the theory of Daniel Kahneman about two process thinking to explain that education has to change in order to meet the new demands of the 21st century.

The two process thinking model is a complex theory, which can be simplified for educational purposes. There are two different ways thinking or rather to solve a problem. The first thinking process is fast, efficient and instinctive. “System one” as it is called is responsible for detecting patterns and uses automatism to solve problems. On the other hand, “System two” is slow, thoughtful and cognitively resource-intensive, but is responsible for the complex thinking.

 Illustration by David Plunkert. Retrieved from New York Times, 25 Nov. 2011.

In the following video, Daniel Kahneman explains his theory very understandable and only in four minutes:

Lodge explains that technology in providing easy access to information supports “system one” thinking hence the claim that technology is making us stupid. While this statement is very debatable, it is for certain that teachers in the 21st century have to cope with the changes of technology and to this extent the theory of Kahneman is helpful. Educators have to take into consideration how to foster “system two” thinking instead of “system one” in order to teach their students how to solve complex problems.

The New England Complex Systems Institute suggest to shift from “convergent” to “divergent” teaching. These sophisticated terms just denote teacher-centered and student-centered learning: A common and reasonable trend in education. However, student-based teaching environments are still not common sense and many teachers fear the risk to hand over the reigns. Usually teachers are satisfied with implementing group work in their lessons once in a while to check off student-based learning and calm their conscience of following the newest trend in education.

Most of the instructions on the web are informative and display the advantages of student-based learning, however, they remain too generic (like this example). However, there are recent researches examining specific methods on specific content such as the study by Jo Barraket. He impressively displays the adjustments he made to his lessons in order to have a student-based learning experience. For example, in the Ethic lesson, Barraket changed the discussion into a 4-way case study, in which the students are split up to take different opinions and have to defend them in class. This approach is not revolutionary, but it shows how small tweaks in your lesson plan can support student engagement.

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