How Technology Is Rewiring Your Brain

As we all know, our minds are changing as technology integrates more and more into our lives. The use of technology in traditionally social situations has become so rife it that
games have been invented in order to keep people off their phones. In schools, it is evident that children and teenagers spend more time taking photos and checking in to share online, rather than spending quality time with people they are with.

A recent study conducted by Pew Internet Project in conjunction with Elon University titled Teens, technology, and human potential in 2020 shows that expert opinion on how technology is impacting brains is fairly centred, with 55% believing technology will have a positive impact by 2020, and 42% foreseeing a negative impact.

technology

One of the world’s best-known researchers of teens and young adults, Danah Boyd, of Microso Research said there is no doubt that most people who are using the new communications technologies are experiencing the first scenario as they extend themselves into cyberspace. “Brains are being rewired—any shift in stimuli results in a rewiring,” she was quoted as saying the Huffington Post in February this year.

“The techniques and mechanisms to engage in rapid-fire attention shifting will be extremely useful for the creative class whose job it is to integrate ideas; they relish opportunities to have stimuli that allow them to see things differently.”

As technology becomes more integrated into our lives, we are seeing dramatic changes in the way primary and high school students are taught, and the role of the teacher changing.

Is Technology Rewiring Our Brains?

Alex Halavais, an associate professor and internet researcher at Quinnipiac University, agreed. “We will think differently, and a large part of that will be as a result of being capable of exploiting a new communicative environment.”
The changes we are seeing in education are not only about the increased technology use, but also that technology is allowing scientists to gain a new perspective on some behavioural disorders traditionally thought of as a roadblock to education.

The changes we are seeing in education are not only about the increased technology use, but also that technology is allowing scientists to gain a new perspective on some behavioural disorders traditionally thought of as a roadblock to education.

Some experts predict that long thought-of disruptive learning “difficulties” like ADHD will be embraced. “The youth of 2020 will enjoy cognitive ability far beyond our estimates today based not only on their ability to embrace ADHD as a tool but also by their ability to share immediately any information with colleagues/friends and/or family, selectively and rapidly” says William Schrader, a consultant who founded PSINet in the 1980s.

Building Connections

The plasticity of our brains is another area where technology is allowing us to gain insights never before understood. Susan Price, CEO and chief Web strategist at Firecat Studio and an organizer of TEDx in San Antonio, Texas, says “The amazing plasticity of the brain is nowhere as evident as in the rapid adaptations humans are making in response to our unprecedented access to electronic information,” she wrote.

Young people and those who embrace the new connectedness are developing and evolving new standards and skills at a rate unprecedented in our history. Overall, our ability to connect, share and exchange information with other human beings is a strong net positive for humanity” said Price.

Others are not so optimistic about how these changes will affect society, and focus on the need for balance between technology and social skills. Mary Beth Hertz K-8 Technology Teacher in Philadelphia, PA, says she thinks device etiquette is something that students need to be ready for when they leave school.

“When my students leave high school, they will need to know norms and etiquette for their devices. They will also need to know themselves — specifically, their own limits when it comes to distraction. Eventually, they should know when to put their phone away because it’s distracting them, or when listening to music while they work is slowing them down.

Overall, we need to ensure there is a balance. Technology and teachers can be used to complement each other, and improve the education of all our students. Price sums it up nicely, saying “Those who bemoan the perceived decline in deep thinking or engagement, face-to-face social skills and dependency on technology fail to appreciate the need to evolve our processes and behaviours to suit the new reality and opportunities.”

Emily Ko, Reaching Teachers Teacher Resources (http://reachingteachers.com.au)

3 Comments

  1. nancy norris

    July 31, 2014 at 11:48 am

    thankyou for the info~

  2. Rob Bellenfant

    July 31, 2014 at 7:35 pm

    This “rewiring” can already be seen in many millennials entering the workforce over the past few years. Growing up in the digital age with easy access to devices and information has molded their approach to every aspect of work and life. As a millennial who manages a team of millennials, I certainly know about that! Price is absolutely correct in noting others must make an effort to evolve and adapt in these new digital realities, for they are the future!

  3. Bryon Palmer

    August 2, 2014 at 9:54 am

    I am interested in areas of ADHD, brain disorders and if Bipolar is affected by electric impulses within the brain will advancemeets in technology speed up process in “rewiring” these impulses by controlling them? Interesting, plus a new variable for sociologist studies on our society.

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