I’ve just put down my review copy of Brian Gain by Marc Prensky, after flipping through the pages once again. Reading it has been timely, given the changes that are taking place in our education environment here in Australia ~ national curriculum, NBN (!), laptop programs, iPad rollouts and Bring Your Own Device initiatives.
There has been a significant shift in the way we think, work, and talk about technology. There has also been a lot of development in the ways that we can adapt and adopt technology to enhance our personal and professional lives. So while we discuss curriculum, we need books that are provocative and force us to run a final launch countdown to be sure that we really are ready to work with technology in a changing world.
The Australian curriculum as presented by ACARA acknowledges the interdisiplinary role of ICT by defining it as a general capability. For those of us grappling with the integration of computing and technologies, the changes and challenges can so easily take us out of our comfort zone and into new spaces for the creation and development of learning and knowledge encounters. As we are exploiting the capabilities of digital technology, we are discovering that digital technology is more than a tool for creativity, communication, information organization and retrieval.
Technology in a networked world is expanding our physical minds and changing our human horizons.
Enter Marc Prensky and Brain Gain – a broad and conversational discussion about the potential of technology to improve, extend, enhance and amplify the human mind. Marc canvasses the expected territory of the social impacts of technology, rejecting the warnings of those who suggest technology is making us stupid, or slowing down the ability of our students to think.
Because of the rapid advances in technology, notions of what is possible and, more importantly, ‘wise’ in many situation are undergoing profound change.
Our students have to learn differently, and develop their knowledge differently.
Today’s wisdom is that its far better to learn how to acquire new information.
Throughout the book there is much discussion about ‘humanity’ and the needs of a burgeoning knowledge society to think with and through technology. The book is not a scholarly tome – rather it IS a very accessible and engaging read that covers every angle, and entices the reader into a deeper understanding of our future prospects as being interwoven with technology to deepen human knowledge and creativity.
The book is really all about cultivating digital wisdom in a technology amplified world. There are trade offs. There are pointers for professionals who are looking to understand the breadth of potential of technology. There are sweeping statements too.
However, you can’t go past this book for a riveting read, accessible to the most technophobic teachers or administrators. In setting out to read this book I would have liked to think I learned nothing. In fact I learned a lot, as the book moves from the expected to the implications of a symbiotic combination of the human brain and technology.
I learned that it is important to be excited by ideas. I learned that collaboration is more important than ever. I learned that our technology past is not ‘old’ or irrelevant – but that our new technologies are simply escalating the rate at which we can think and develop.
I learned that technology is providing us with new pathways for thinking never before possible, and that this synergy with technology is considered by some to potentially change humanity in a ‘evolutionary’ way.
Not only does Marc present us with the positive and negative potential of technology (which we must think about daily in our teaching and learning), but he also introduced me to the Countdown to Singularity.
In the last chapter on the coming Singularity, I read about “the moment, not very far off… when our technology will become as powerful, and even more powerful than our human brains.” This is when humans will transcend biology. Referencing theories from science fiction writers and futurists (including Ray Kurzweil), this ending seems an odd, speculative conclusion in an otherwise reasonable, practical book.
Get your hands on a copy if you can, and decide for yourself where technology and the quest for digital wisdom will take us.