Digital Generation Brains, YouTube Math Tutoring

By Katie Ash — December 12, 2008 1 min read

Getting caught up on recent tech news, I ran across a couple of stories that I think are worth checking out.

This AP story talks about scientists who are starting to investigate how daily exposure to technology is affecting people’s brains.

While violent video games have gotten a lot of public attention, some current concerns go well beyond that. Some scientists think the wired world may be changing the way we read, learn, and interact with each other. There are no firm answers yet. But Dr. Gary Small, a psychiatrist at UCLA, argues that daily exposure to digital technologies such as the Internet and smart phones can alter how the brain works.

Most scientists seem to be concerned with a possible deterioration of face-to-face social interactions in today’s digital youngsters, but others are worried that the way people are consuming information through the Internet could possibly short-circuit the pathways that lead to deep reading, reflection, and analysis. However, at least one researcher, Mizuko Ito from the University of California, Irvine, asserts that daily use of new technologies teach students 21st-century skills that will be essential by the time they are ready to enter the workforce.

Another AP story examines how students are starting to turn to YouTube for homework help. In particular, an organization called The Khan Academy has apparently helped many struggling math students figure out even their toughest problems.

The videos are appealing for several reasons, says Kim Gregson, an Ithaca College professor of new media. Students come to the videos when they're ready to study and fully awake—not always the case for 8 a.m. calculus classes. And they can watch the videos as many times as they need until they understand.

The organization is essentially one man, who, after explaining the same concepts over and over to his younger family and friends, decided to make YouTube videos which could be viewed multiple times.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.

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