Sayeth David Carr:
What changes our brains is, on the one hand, repetition and, on the other hand, neglect. That’s why I believe the Net is having such far-reaching intellectual consequences. When we’re online, we tend to perform the same physical and mental actions over and over again, at a high rate of speed and in a state of perpetual distractedness. The more we go through those motions, the more we train ourselves to be skimmers and scanners and surfers. But the Net provides no opportunity or encouragement for more placid, attentive thought. What we’re losing, through neglect, is our capacity for contemplation, introspection, reflection — all those ways of thinking that require attentiveness and deep concentration.
Granted, graduate students of all types are often forced into being “skimmers and scanners” but they are graduate students…research is central their raison d’etre, whereas for undergrads…not so much. And while certain sites do encourage attentive thought, I suspect that the groupthink will outweigh the introspection and contemplation for which Carr longs. Hence people will be seeking out their suppositions, rather than actually slog through the process of learning. The Internet magnifies the potential for dumb aggregation of information, not the coherent synthesis of it.
There’s not enough of it:
Academic librarians are eager to offer sessions for students on what we call “research education.” But the mistaken assumption that students don’t need it means that many professors don’t ask us to meet with their students, or even respond to our enthusiastic offers to lead such sessions. Students don’t need to be taught anything about working online, because they were practically born digital, right?
Research education is not tools education. Research education involves getting students to understand how information is organized physically in libraries, as well as electronically in library catalogs and in powerful, sometimes highly specialized commercial databases. It means teaching students to search effectively online to identify the most relevant and highest-quality books, articles, microform sets, databases, even free Web resources.
Knowing how to Tweet doesn’t equate to knowing the LexisNexis interface.
Apparently this is now is an epidemic on college and university campuses affecting students’ ability to take notes and start their research. A terrible affliction. Some intrepid researchers, non-student researchers mind you who must be resistant to this virulent strain, have found some striking…findings. Consider the following preliminary symptoms (among several) and decide whether or not they may be related:
- Students used words such as “angst”, “dread”, “anxious”, “stressed”, “disgusted”, “confused” and “overwhelmed” as the one word that describes their reaction to receiving a research assignment.
- The majority of the students we intereviewed did not start on an assignment – thinking about it, researching or writing – until two or three days before it was due.
Mutually exclusive? My thoughts exactly. More to the point, I gleaned this fascinating grain of psycholuminescence further down:
On the downside many participants considered formal library instruction of little value to them – not because it wasn’t helpful or informative but it was hard to recall what was learned when it was needed for an assignment.
Hmmmm, signs of neurological stress and memory loss, particularly during sessions of library instruction. We need some test subjects and further research. Hopefully our note-taking abilities we won’t be afflicted.