“The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains”

In an article from the Wall Street Journal on Friday, June 4, 2010 entitled So Many Links, So Little Time by Journalist John Horgan he reviews Nicholas Carr’s new book entitled The Shallows (p A17).

This book is a timely piece as our world has become so digitized. As we know our lives have been transformed by the Internet and the connectivity it provides to every device that we have at our disposal.

Regarding our work lives and our home lives and our downtime is really our “up time” by being connected through our social networks. We are always multitasking so we think we are doing a great job. Yet as the article begins to highlight is that the Internet is actually making us dumber because we are skimming everything we read in short distracted ‘sittings’.

When we go online as is suggested we are entering another world where we begin to have more websites and media at our disposal and we begin clicking through content reading our e-mail, doing our work tasks all while we are talking to someone on the telephone.

The question how much of this information are we truly retaining?

As an example, to design curriculum for the adult learner to [teach/transfer] soft skills, business skills and/or functional skills, graphics, pictures with less text are used to provide the context of the message. The design is used to capture and hold the attention span of the learner in an online segment with 10 minute segments or less. (Even this is too much time spent on a concept)

The conundrum is highlighted in Carr’s (2010) book as he talks about the price we are paying for plugging in.

“Many studies “point to the same conclusion,” he writes. “When we go online, we enter an environment that promotes cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning. (p A17)”

“What we gain from the Internet in breadth of knowledge – or rather, access to knowledge – we lose depth. Mr. Carr quotes the playwright Richard Foreman’s lament that we are becoming “pancake people – spread wide and thin as we connect with that vast network of information accessed by the mere touch of a button (A17).” Or in another another metaphor that I enjoy “an inch deep and mile wide”…unfortunately I see this behavior demonstrated in Grad school and within the curriculum design in the workplace.

So are we (curriculum designers) contributing to this ‘dummying’ down by creating “biggy graphics” for concept learning?

Carr, N. (2010). The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. New York, NY. W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Horgan, J. So Many Links, So Little Time. WSJ. (A17) June 4, 2010

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About Linda Savanauskas

An accomplished talent management professional with experience in curriculum design, development of learning strategies, and professional skills development training programs for the workplace. Collaboration in training programs includes small and medium size businesses (SMB) to larger organizations from Raleigh to Charlotte, North Carolina. Virtual instructor led training can be offered to any location.