Is google making me smarter, stupider, is it all just Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes and can we even trace it? Having seen yet another article on this issue, I thought I’d better have an answer – one other than just rolling my eyes.  So this is part of that. Essentially, while I think we should be aware of changes, many articles leap on the assumption that change=bad, rather than engaging in a) a critique of the value judgements involved in such an assessment and b) a critique of the research being reported – which is often anecdote, or controlled experiments (which ignore issue ‘a’) – some of these experiments are better than others, but even the worst (a STROOP test?! to assess affinity with google?!) get big headlines. It actually goes a bit beyond that though, because I’m always deeply amused that ‘google’ gets talked about in these articles, not search engines, and certainly not bing – but google is only one of the many search engines, and its affordances are at least somewhat different to those of bing.  I’ll talk about that a little bit more below in my next post. First, these are some of the blogs covering this ground: Search engines – adding 20 IQ points The most recent article I saw asked “[Are we artificially intelligent]1” the answer (from Michael Jones – one of the Google maps people) is that Google reckons G’maps makes people 20 IQ points smarter, _but _with the cost of making them 20 IQ points dumber than their natural IQ when the services are unavailable (so -40 from their device reader selves).  This is such a monumentally stupid comment (/joke) I’ll just say: 1. How would you know? 2. Given the prevalence of the devices, and the way IQ is worked out, how is this intelligible? 3. Is it really plausible to think someone would go from well above average IQ (120) to falling into a clinically below average intelligence range (less than 80, but hell it’s close enough) Hence I assume it was a joke/glib comment/task specific/whatever.  Taking away the extreme fluctuation though, the general idea is quite interesting.  In my MA thesis I referred to the friendliness of the epistemic environment, this seems pertinent here – in some (friendly) epistemic environments we might expect rather less from someone before we’re prepared to credit them with knowledge than in harsher epistemic environments. This sort of idea could (has been) brought to bear on issues such as this. So here’s a summary of some issues that have been raised: * [How Google Impacts The Way Students Think]2 – “1. Google creates the illusion of accessibility; 2. Google naturally suggests “answers” as stopping points; 3. Being linear, Google obscures the interdependence of information (Especially those that seem conflicting).” – however as (for example) I talk about [here]3 this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case, search engine tasks can be dialogic, collaborative, problem solving enterprises. * [Digital Fluency – Towards Young People’s Critical Use of the Internet]4 – “argues that there is strong evidence that the web is fundamental to pupils’ learning and lives, but that many are not careful, discerning users of the internet. They are unable to find the information they are looking for, or they trust the first thing they see. This makes them vulnerable to the pitfalls of ignorance, falsehoods, cons and scams. The article proposes the appropriate response to be to embed ‘digital fluency’ – a tripartite concept constituting critical thinking, net savviness and diversity – at the heart of learning, in order to create a pedagogical framework fit for the information consumption habits of the digital age.” (indeed, so what’s new) * [“Digital natives” need help understanding search]5 “despite their subjects’ fluency with the technology, the mental models and critical thinking they brought to bear on search results had real problems” (again, indeed – so what’s new?) * [The Searchers]6 “the attitude we take toward the world. To be turned inward, to listen to speech that is only a copy, or reflection, of our own speech, is to keep the universe alone. To free ourselves from that prison — the prison we now call personalization — we need to voyage outward to discover “counter-love,” to hear “original response.” As Frost understood, a true search is as dangerous as it is essential. It’s about breaking the shackles of the self, not tightening them.  There was a time, back when Larry Page and Sergey Brin were young and naive and idealistic, that Google spoke to us with the voice of original response. Now, what Google seeks to give us is copy speech, our own voice returned to us. It’s a great tragedy.” (see article referred to, and my commentary for some relevant thoughts on this: [here]7) * Google promotes shallow reading and a lack of concentration (see the Wikipedia page []8 and Carr’s article [“Is Google Making Us Stupid”]9). – see below re: value. Also see the Wiki article for critiques particularly on specificity (literature), evidence (a lot of anecdote), and historical precedent (which Carr acknowledges too) * Google changes the way our brain works (so many blogs/articles, e.g. on [irony] this [google search]10) – see the second link below for some critique, it’s astonishing that the results of a STROOP test have been so far extrapolated. But, there are some good points in opposition: * [Google makes you stupid, if by stupid you mean informed]11 “just because the process of finding such knowledge is simpler doesn’t neuter or de-authenticate the learning; rather it frees up the learner for more important thinking that a computer can’t duplicate.” * [Has the Internet become an external hard drive for the brain?]12 “The issue of whether and how the Internet is changing our brains and the way we think tends to generate a lot of hyperbole and hot air. There is in fact a long history of technology exciting such reactions. Against that context, it’s refreshing to have some new, relevant data (also see [here]13) as opposed to yet more excitable conjecture. However, it’s important to keep these new findings in perspective: they hint at how the Internet could be altering our memory habits, but they haven’t demonstrated that this is any different from other forms of memory support. For example, similar results might have been obtained if trivia statements had been written in notebooks or told to friends, as opposed to typed into a computer. Of course it pays to note that the present study didn’t actually involve the Internet at all. And there’s also no evidence here of any irreversible effects – our minds are likely adapting to technology all the time, as they do to everything else, but there’s no reason they couldn’t adapt back again if necessary.” (neurobonkers debunks here too: * The comparison of the internet with alleged claims of Socrates on writing (whether that comparison is to say “look, this is a valid worry”, or “look at the silly Luddites through history) is at least debatable in the wider context of the Phaedrus # The key point: * [Why knowing search isn’t the same as having an education]14 “Most people would agree, I hope, that factoid lookup is not really what education is all about. And yet that is in many ways the box into which our debate about education is being forcefully stuffed. We test educational achievement and evaluate the progress of schools by giving students standardized tests that ask questions like “name the three main branches of moral philosophy.” These tests reinforce the notion that education is the sum total of what you’ve acquired during your time in school. Students naturally ask “what’s the point when I can just look up these things?” They have a point. If you construe learning and time in school as the gradual accumulation of factoids that you have to recognize on a test, then it’s a fair pushback—why deny them the tools they’d use in real life? That is, assuming real life / real education is looking up factoids about the world.But the tests aren’t really testing knowledge, they’re an instrument that measures the marks of education on the student. They’re measuring the side-effects of learning. If you’ve really learned much about the American Revolution, then you probably know what the Declaration is all about. This question is a proxy metric: it doesn’t measure how much you’ve learned, but is an estimator that samples the shape of scholastic tire tread left on your brain by the educational school bus. If you’re actually trying to understand how the Declaration of Independence informs and influences modern political thought, you need to know what the Enlightenment was in a broad sense and how it shaped the Declaration; you probably don’t need to know which Enlightenment idea is elaborated by that document. (Or worse, what you think the test writers thought was the idea.) But that’s harder to test at the state-wide scale we need.” * So, some key points * It’s about what we value and what we assess – we’ve valued memory of facts because it’s easy to assess, but that doesn’t mean it’s the most important factor * While tools may lend themselves to particular ways of acting, this might provide opportunity to extend other areas – for example, if search engines allow us to find facts easily, we can focus more on the synthesis and evaluation of those facts. * Neurological changes are not necessarily a bad thing, we might be concerned here but should be cautious of leaping to conclusions from any observed changes (especially when we bear in mind the above points) * It’s very hard to do good research on change – much like debates around the difficulty of exams now versus “IN MMYYYY DAY” there are serious issues in tracking change in abilities over time, which relate to value judgements regarding what should be valued, and the impossibility of controls when comparing cohorts of different ages/historic groups with young people now, etc.  

Doonsebury cartoon - why study when you can search

Why Study When You Can Search

The extended mind thesis - when wikipedia has a server outage, my apparent IQ drops by about 30 points

The Extended Mind

What are Google and Bing doing? I find it quite funny that these

articles are normally about Google – whatever the quality of the results (and I’m afraid I do think google wins on this), Bing does have some affordances which google doesn’t, and they might be quite important epistemically.  I was going to put this in here, but in fact I’ll write another blog on this – part 2 to come soon! Some other bits: * [Is the internet changing our brains?]15 – v. similar to the above * [HOW IS THE INTERNET CHANGING THE WAY YOU THINK?]16 – a range of thinkers, including Andy Clark (one of the proponents of the Extended Mind thesis) respond * Elsewhere, the guys at [Instagrok]17 were suggesting “[Your Students Don’t Stink at Research: Your Software Does]18“. * [Google makes you stupid, if by stupid you mean informed]11 “just because the process of finding such knowledge is simpler doesn’t neuter or de-authenticate the learning; rather it frees up the learner for more important thinking that a computer can’t duplicate.” * My at has lots of tools, lesson ideas, etc. for teaching search. I also have some general guidance/ideas/tips/considerations on this [page]3 from my MPhil research (part of this will be published in a book on effective dialogue around the Interactive WhiteBoard)




  3. “Using the internet to do research – some tips, ideas, tools, comments” 2




  7. “Evaluating Google as an Epistemic Tool”




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