Today I had lunch with some council colleagues from another department. As a librarian in local government, within the council teams I consider myself to be Canada - the safe colleague who gets along with the majority of the staff in the organisation.
Anyway, I'm not here to post about me. Conversation drifted to one of the colleagues mentioning they had recently seen a Catalyst episode on ABC TV about Information Overload.
They must have repeated the episode because I could only find one that was aired in 2012. But regardless, the topic is still relevant.
What struck my colleague is the impact of information consumption on children. On how our children are part of the "born digital" generation who will know no different then to using technology for everyday things and learning. These quotes from the show illustrate that:
"Prof David NicholasWe're all plugged in to the big, fat information pipe now. We can contact a massive library. Information is on tap.
Baroness Susan Greenfield
They're a side issue of salad, you know? In restaurants, everyone has their mobiles. You only have to see people incessantly using their thumbs while they're talking to someone else. You only have to see people with those white wires in their heads, not communicating or connecting with the outside world, let alone each other.
The virtual revolution is transforming the way we shop, manage our health, entertain ourselves and even how we make friends.
Prof Jean Twenge
Websites like Facebook and Twitter and YouTube really allow people to seek attention for themselves.
Prof Jeremy Bailenson
I can do things we can never do in the physical world. The rules, the physics, of how social interactions work get completely changed.
Baroness Susan Greenfield
I think the question of the impact of technology on young brains is as broad a question as that, let's say, of climate change. It's unprecedented, it's highly controversial - some people think we're doomed.
Whatever you think of digital technology, one thing is certain - there's no going back.
Digital technology is now so pervasive that there's an app that shows me what's in front of my phone so I don't run into things. If I lose connection, I feel anxious and thirsty for information. So if I'm feeling so ill at ease without it, what is all this constant stimulation actually doing to my brain?
Dr Bahador Bahrami
If you practise juggling for a week, then your brain is going to change. Now imagine for the past ten years, you have been sitting at your computer a few hours a day and using internet - of course it has changed you. There is no way that it shouldn't."
In previous posts, I have discussed children and technology, and what is a good age to have children using technology etc. The discussion I had with colleagues over lunch centred on how children look for information in a totally different way to what we do.
I am possibly making broad assumptions when I say this but during our discussion we did say that the majority of children (and I'm referring to those in primary school) will look to "Google" prior to looking to anywhere else when seeking information.
My colleagues and I reflected on how we would always go to a book first - most regularly the encyclopedia. We also reflected on the "finding information skills" that we were taught by the school librarian as part of our weekly library sessions. I have also blogged about the lack of this happening in schools these days.
I then mentioned how some studies have shown that university students do not absorb as much information when reading from a screen - computer or tablet - then when reading from a physical book. However, I said that we should do studies on our own children, who are born digital, when they are older to see if they also do not absorb as much information, because I believe the tide will have turned. Mainly because they will be so used to receiving information on a screen that, like is mentioned in the narration from Catalyst, their brain will change. Their method of learning will be much different to ours and those of university students today.
Insert Catalyst Narration:
"NARRATIONDigital natives - users born after 1993 - are less focused or engaged with each site. But is that a concern?
Dr Bahador Bahrami
Your brain is not there to give you education. Your brain is part of a biological organism that tries to maximise, uh, things, such as, for example, how easily you can get on with life without having to spend much energy, much time, or much effort. And if this maximises your gain without putting much effort in it, you brain is, of course, going to do this. This is very, very rational. If you take your child away from internet and just tell them, 'You have to go to the encyclopaedia in paper and find the answer, write it down in your notebook and take it to your teacher,' yes, she will be able to focus greatly. But 20 years from now, that is not what's going to get her in front of everybody else. Because everybody else does that in a second."
What do you think?