#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. **

Actor-Network Theory in Education

Give Me Some Theory... #LitReview

Actor-Network Theory has recently been referred to by Law (2007, p. 595) as  the ‘diaspora’ of

“tools sensibilities and methods of analysis that treat everything in the social and  natural worlds as a continuous generated effect of the webs of relations within which they are located. It assumes that nothing has reality or for outside the enactment of those relations.”

Further research in this theory helps scholars and researchers discover new approaches to a number of educational issues. In considering educational research, with regards to schools, universities/colleges, community agencies, corporate training organizations, and professional affiliations, ANT merges knowledge as situated, embodied and distributed.

Fenwick and Edward (2010) share how ANT challenges a number of assumptions that lie in educational conceptions of development, learning , agency, identity, knowledge and teaching. ANT identifies rich interconnections in both social and cognitive activity. As shared in the book, Neyland (2006, p. 45) has the ability to contribute to educational understanding of:

“mundane masses (the everyday and the humdrum that are frequently overlooked), assemblages (descriptions of things holding together), materiality (that which does or does not endure), heterogeneity (achieved diversity within assemblage), and flows/fluidity (movement without necessary stability).”

For those interested in reading the book in more detail, you will appreciate how Fenwick and Edward (2010) utilize ANT in education as a source of research practices, to consider:

  1. Concepts, approaches, and debates around ANT as a resource for educational research.
  2. Showcase studies in education that have employed ANT methods and comparing ANT approaches in other disciplines/fields.
  3. After ANT developments that challenges presumptions and limitations of ANT research.

Reference:

Fenwick, T. & Edwards, R. (2010). Actor-network theory in education. New York, NY: Routledge.

Law, J. (2007). Making a mess with method, in W. Outhwaite & S.P. Turner (Eds.). The Sage Handbook of Social Science Methodology, Beverly Hills, CA: Sage. pp. 595-606.

Neyland, D. (2006). Dismissed content and discontent: an analysis of the strategic aspects of actor-network theory, Science, Technology and Human Values, 31(1); 29-51.

What They Didn’t Teach You In Graduate School… The #phdchat Edition

What They Didn't Teach You in Graduate School

I finally wrapped up reading What They Didn’t Teach You in Graduate School during my #summerreading stint. This is the first edition and there is now a 2.0 update. This book is geared towards American doctoral students and academics; however PhD’s outside of the US might find value with these 199 academic hints.

There are a few good hints scattered throughout the book for budding academics and PhD students. Here are a few snippets from Gray and Drew (2008) geared for myself and other #phdchat comrades:

The PhD

  • Finish your PhD as early as possible.
  • You must finish your PhD to move up the academic ladder. The world is full of ABDs.
  • Be aware that the key danger point in any doctoral program is the one where you leave highly structure coursework and enter into the unstructured world of the qualification examiniation and the dissertation.

On Writing

  • Learn how to write clearly.
  • Limit self-plagiarism.
  • One of the most useful things you can develop is a pool of research references stored in your computer [or an online storage space of choice].

On Publishing

  • Submit your papers (other than those you know are stinkers) first to the best journals in the field.
  • Write most of your articles for refereed journals [not for conferences, meetings, etc.]
  • As they say in Chicago, publish early and often.
  • Include single-author papers in your portfolio.
  • Recognize the delays in publishing.

Appendix A – The Dissertation

  • Don’t assume that if you are having trouble defining a dissertation topic that the entire dissetation process will be that arduous.
  • Put a lot of effort into writing your dissertation proposal.
  • Be skillful in whom you select for your dissertation advisory committee.
  • In doing a literature search, use the “chain of references.” Begin with one or two recent articles (a survey article helps!). Look at the references that are cited.
Obviously Appendix A, The Dissertation, is on the forefront of my research this summer as I finish the last of my coursework this Fall. Reading this book provided some great insights and motivation to continue to push through. The book was bluntly written and I found it pretty helpful to read honest advice and expertise from other academics in the field. This book reminded me of previous conversations I have had with my own faculty advisor, Dr. Jeff Allen. For those of you who do not have a faculty advisor or another academic mentor in your life, you should read this… and probably find an academic mentor. Doctoral students need an advisor/mentor (or two) who will give us both a reality check and support as we embark on our academic life. Good luck with your journey!

 

Reference:

Gray, P. & Drew, D.E. (2008). What They Didn’t Teach You in Graduate School: 199 Helpful Hints for Success in Your Academic Career. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing, LLC.