Technology is altering (rewiring) our brains. The tools we use define and shape our thinking. -George Siemens
Technology has been continuously transforming our brains since Web 1.0 at an exponentially increasing rate. The most obvious of these changes are apparent in our methods for accessing and sharing information via social media. Using popular apps and online tools for collaboration, acquiring information in prodigious quantities has never been easier. In using these tools, we are actively improving our ability to research, collaborate, and “learn to be” (Brown & Adler, 2008).
These changes, however, have also adversely impacted our cognitive processes. Some examples of this include our diminished capacity for remembering phone numbers and birthdays, the potential for depression in a culture of “sharing” on Facebook (jealousy, comparing oneself to the “happy posts” of others, etc.), and the ubiquitous availability of bad information. Despite these lamented aspects, it seems clear that we are being “rewired” for the better.
The only way in which my thinking departs from this quote stems from my professional experience as a librarian. On a weekly basis, I find myself assisting a student impacted by “digital divide”. Despite the potential for technology to accommodate a wide range of learning styles and abilities, the impact of technology on learning has left many people in the dust. In other words, I feel that the statement from Siemens is correct, but does not include a central component of his thesis.
Although technology is transforming our brains, it is important to stress the role of the learner in the process ( and Siemens would agree with me). Based on the concepts addressed by Siemens in “Learning and Knowing in Networks”, it is clear that the role of the educator has changed and will continue to do so in network-based learning. However, the impact of technology on our cognitive process requires active participation from the student/participant. We are changing, but active participation is required.