If you are to believe Patricia Greenfield, the internet and technology are producing a decline in critical thinking. In a recent study summarized by ScienceDaily, she argues that technology has led to a decline in analysis and critical thinking. Yet the study has numerous holes in it, all stemming from an almost pathetic ignorance of what reading and critical thinking actually mean. Clay Burell has done an excellent smackdown of the article, showing how nothing in it actually serves as a good argument against technology. The whole post is well worth a read, but here is a summary of the main flaws in the study:
The study purports that reading for pleasure has declined, but isn’t willing to recognize online reading as reading. This flies in the face of the fact that me reading the article and you reading this post is reading — for pleasure.
How much should schools use new media, versus older techniques such as reading and classroom discussion?
Apparently, new media doesn’t include reading or discussion. Well, you know what you’re doing now? Reading. And see that thread below, with the box to reply? It’s a discussion.
Schools should make more effort to test students using visual media, she said, by asking them to prepare PowerPoint presentations, for example.
Yes, what we really need are more PowerPoints, covered in glittery fonts and distracting animations, and delivered by emotionless speakers. Before anyone touches a computer to give a presentation, they should take a course in Public Speaking 101.
However, most visual media are real-time media that do not allow time for reflection, analysis or imagination — those do not get developed by real-time media such as television or video games. Technology is not a panacea in education, because of the skills that are being lost.
This statement continues a thread of misunderstanding of technology throughout the article. For one thing, much of the web and technology still is text-based and asynchronous. But even the visual components can easily be given time to reflect. Every YouTube video has a pause button. Oh, and as for TV: there are these new things called TiVos. Ever heard of them?
“Wiring classrooms for Internet access does not enhance learning,” Greenfield said.
There are dozens of studies showing that internet access does enhance learning, as opposed to this single, poorly-researched study.1
Sadly, many in both the media and educational establishment will continue to cite this study as they attempt to lambaste and oppose technology. If you do encounter an oppositional Luddite attempting to obstruct technology based upon this study, just point them at Clay’s excellent rebuttal. Maybe the only thing that we can be sure of is that technology is making it harder to control people and students, so many have a vested interesting in obstructing it.
Finally, for some laughs, think about it like this: what if someone had done a study like this at the dawn of the book? If they counted reading scrolls as the only form of reading, then surely there would be a massive decline in reading for pleasure. The satirical video which Clay linked to makes that point hilariously:
On a personal note, I’ve been getting over a bad cold which has made it hard to think and write. I have a long list of ideas, which I will begin following up on tomorrow.
You can’t change the world if you ignore it.
Among the progressive base, there seems to be this idea that corporations and society are inherently bad. This attitude, which leads to growing isolation, doesn’t help to advance progressive causes. Instead, it just stigmatizes good ideas as dangerously radical.
Make no mistake: this world isn’t perfect. Society, at all levels, is rampart with corruption, greed, and other “sins.”2 Unfortunately, the typical progressive/radical response to this is to simply abandon society. But in reality, substantive change only comes from the inside. We can’t all be Thoreau. To change society, you have to be part of it.
In a plethora of situations, I run into the conflict between ideals and practicality. It is better to build a good compromise than to ride the high horse into the sunset. Though some call it Machiavellian, I call it pragmatic. Everything should be analyzed as a cost vs. value equation. What is the cost to my moral integrity? What is the benefit to society?
The world isn’t painted in black and white, but in shades of grey. Nothing is inherently evil and nothing is inherently bad. Corporations are just a collection of people, and all people are just trying to do what they think is best.
I run into this conflict all the time, both in work and school. Sure, I don’t believe there is any point to an assignment. But that doesn’t mean I won’t do it: in the end, it’s better for me to ace a pointless class than to fail it. It’s better to accept that job at Goliath National Bank than to barely make ends meet elsewhere.
Society doesn’t give a damn about you unless you give a damn about it.
It’s fun to wear band shirts, but eventually we have to “suit up.”3
Tomorrow, history will be made. The only question left is what sort of history it will be.
Today, I didn’t have school. School was closed in honor of a great moment in history, and the man who inspired it.
Tomorrow, history will be made. While it is made, I will be taking my math exam. I will be able to tell my grandchildren about quadratic formulas.
I am a die hard keyboard shortcut user. Strong keyboard shortcuts in an application are a requirement, not a bonus.
Despite this, I believe we are on the verge of a shift in the way machines and people communicate. Increasingly, it is about touch rather than type or movement.
Originally, computers were almost exclusively controlled through text (command line interfaces). This was (and is) highly efficient but not very user-friendly. With the advent of the GUI, pointing became the dominant form of input for most users. Hardcore geeks still use the keyboard as much as possible, but the average user is tied to the mouse.
With the development of multitouch technologies, we are able to get the benefits of both the keyboard and mouse. Multitouch has proven to supremely efficient, in comparison to the keyboard and mouse. Additionally, there is nothing more natural-feeling than multitouch; your touch immediately creates an appropriate response from the computer.
In terms of consumer products, Apple has proven to be a pioneer in multitouch development. Both the Apple laptop lines and iPhone lines now include multitouch support.1
When I bought my first Apple laptop, one of the features which truly stood out to me was the ability to scroll with the trackpad. The gesture is elegant and simple, with none of the cumbersome wheels or pointing of other laptops: to scroll, just swipe two fingers.
Despite this, I always felt that Apple wasn’t truly exploring the potential of multitouch. Enter MultiClutch.
Essentially, MultiClutch allows anyone using one of the newer MacBook or MacBook Pro models to assign gestures for keyboard shortcuts. The power this creates is immense, limited only by your imagination.
I currently have MultiClutch configured to quickly swap through spaces, control my music, and hide applications. These gestures help me to control my environment with minimal interruption.
Though there is a plethora of potential configurations, one of the most useful is the ability to quickly swap though a multitude of windows even on a small laptop screen. Hopefully, this technique will prove useful in your workflow as well.2
To begin, download MultiClutch. Once downloaded and installed, head to the new “MultiClutch” panel of the preferences.
In this panel, you need to add four gestures. To add a gesture, click the small plus sign in the bottom right. Then select the dropdown in your new command and choose an appropriate gesture. Finally, double click the “key command” field and press the appropriate key combination. The mappings I use in my setup are relatively straight-forward:
- Swipe left → command + left arrow
- Swipe right → command + right arrow
- Swipe down → command + down arrow
- Swipe up → command + up arrow
After you have configured MultiClutch, you must configure Spaces. You can do so in the Exposé & Spaces panel of system preferences. Check the box to enable spaces and add an appropriate number of spaces. (I use nine.) Then, at the bottom, chose two keyboard shortcuts to hop between spaces. I recommend using control (^) and arrow keys. With this enabled, you will be able to switch spaces by holding control while pressing the appropriate directional key. Your swipe gestures now will work perfectly.
You can now use nine screens, even on a small laptop. To move from screen to screen, just swipe with three fingers across the trackpad. You will then switch to the space in that direction. This technique has a distinct science fiction feel to it, but is also highly efficient.
Multitouch, combined with Spaces on Leopard, makes a small laptop screen 9 times “bigger.”
What potential do you see in MultiClutch? What gestures do you use? On another note, would you like me to do more or fewer of these techie-type posts?