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Has Digital Media Changed the Brain?

posted by admin on November 12th, 2008

It’s not exactly going out on a limb to claim that digital media has changed the way we find and process information, but new research shows that the switch to digital media is changing the brain itself:

Scientists are beginning to document the traces that the Internet leaves on sensitive young brains. People who play a lot of action video games, for instance, process visual information more quickly than people who don’t.

Digital immersion affects the Net Generation in other ways, too. They don’t necessarily read from left to right, or from beginning to end. They’re more sensitive to visual icons than older people are, and they absorb more information when it’s presented with visual images than when it’s offered in straight text. This may help them be better scanners, a useful skill when you’re confronted with masses of online information.

Of course, changes in the way people think causes changes in the way they learn:

Kids have grown up to expect a two-way conversation, not a one-way lecture. This interactive reflex has a profound effect on what one academic has called their “habits of mind.” Instead of simply absorbing information—from a teacher or even a book—they go out and find it. As O’Shea’s story illustrates, the Net Geners use Google when they want to find out something. When they do so, they construct their own story, their own idea, rather than following the line of thought drawn by someone else in a book. This obviously doesn’t replace conventional book reading, nor should it. But what we’re seeing is a new form of literacy that many experts say is just as intellectually challenging as reading a book.

Let’s hope education can keep up! How do you think education needs to adjust to a digital world?

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