Dumbed down

My copy of last week’s Macleans arrived today, and it has an interesting article with a lot of relevance to the MET program and this course. The article “Dumbed Down: The troubling science of how technology is rewiring kids’ brains” can be found online at:


In essence it discusses the pros and cons of overexposure to technology – in and out of the classroom – on childrens’ brains.


1 D.B. { 11.14.08 at 11:51 pm }

Certainly a provocative title!

However, I wonder how much of a variation it is to read a title like that and consider the standards of the day have changed.

Consider the Math and English standards over the past 20 years as seen by Provincial Exams, let alone from the 50s.

What about orthography?

Then again surely the kids are learning these habits because that is what our society is now? Kids mirror what they are exposed to.

2 Susan Wilson { 11.15.08 at 7:15 am }

Thank you for sharing the article.

I am going to link to it in our presentation for ETEC 512. To me it provides a good argument as to the need for online learning theory.

The purpose of the article (as suggested by the title) may be to complain about the impact of technology but it is also describing the present state of challenge in education. I am of the opinion that technology is here to stay so we had better find a way to deal with it and take advantage of the affordances. When given lemons…

3 cwickes { 11.15.08 at 1:10 pm }

Wow, thanks for the link to that article Joe. I enjoyed reading the mix of interesting comments too. I think it’s great to stimulate conversation like that and it would be worthwhile to leave a few copies in our school staffrooms to stimulate such conversations.
I agree with Susan and believe that the only route is to find the best ways to work with the technologies as they evolve right in front of us along with our kids!

4 Carolann Fraenkel { 11.15.08 at 8:38 pm }

Very Interesting. I wonder, however, how much of the article is written to sell magazines. There seem to be some incongruities.

They write that “During the teen years, empathy skills (the amygdala region in the temporal lobe) and complex reasoning skills (the frontal lobe) are not yet fully developed. This is why, physiologically anyway, teens are predisposed to being self-centred, seeking instant gratification and not being able to always put themselves in others’ shoes—an attribute they develop over time, through social contact. But brain scientists are speculating that too much technology may get in the way of normal frontal lobe development and stunt this maturation process—ultimately freezing them in teen brain mode.”

When I read this I hear that frontal lobe development is related to complex reasoning. The slant of the article seems to point at the temporal lobe issues, which it never says are affected.


5 Joe Dobson { 11.15.08 at 9:51 pm }

Yeah – the title is provocative. I’ve subscribed to Maclean’s for a few years and they’ve moved in this direction. I’m sure there is some inaccuracies in the article – after all it is a journalistic article, not one written by a subject matter expert.

I think that Susan hits is by suggesting that “I am of the opinion that technology is here to stay so we had better find a way to deal with it and take advantage of the affordances.” For me, some aspects discussed in it seemed bang on – diminished ability to concentrate and what the author described as “cut and paste learning”. It actually strikes me as true in many ways of my own experience when I’m reading/working/writing online.

I think the important questions asked in it is: “What are the cognitive tasks we’re ignoring?” “And what are the consequences of not doing those things?” So, yes, technology is here to stay and most educators want the outcomes to positive. But there is a trade-off and in the bigger picture less thought seems to have been put into what the potential consequences of that trade-off are.

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