Curriculum

Q&A: Quest for ‘Digital Wisdom’ Hinges on Brains and Machines

By Mike Bock — September 28, 2012 4 min read
6TechIntvu 600

Marc Prensky has written a number of books about the integration of technology and education. In his latest, Brain Gain: Technology and the Quest for Digital Wisdom, he argues that technology can be used to enhance the human brain and improve the way people process information. In a recent interview with Editorial Intern Mike Bock for Education Week’s Digital Education blog, Mr. Prensky talked about what teachers and education leaders can do to get more out of technology.

Why “Digital Wisdom”? What did you hope to discover when you decided to write this book?

The question is how do we become better people and more able to deal with the problems of our times. In the past, the wisdom of the brain was sufficient; today, it no longer is. And the reason is there are lots of things that the brain is good at, but there are a large number of things that it’s not good at. One of them is dealing with large amounts of data, and dealing with the degree of complexity that happens in the world. So the sense is that wisdom, in the future, is putting together symbiotically what the brain does best and what machines do even better.

What are the main challenges today to bringing educational technology to the classroom? Are they exclusively financial, or are there attitude problems, too?

The main challenge seems to be attitude. I think what it is, if people are afraid of technology, then they will not support it. And if they think that the basics are the same today as the basics in the past, then they won’t support it. My sense is that technology is as basic to education today as reading and writing are. So just as we include reading and writing in every single thing that we teach, we need to include technology in every single thing we teach.

That being said, we have to figure out how to use the technology in a way that is powerful and not trivial. One of the problems is that people who don’t know how to use technology often look for examples, then copy those examples, and get a lot of trivial uses for them; ... trivial compared to the power of technology.

What we should be doing in classes, teachers and students together should be thinking about, “If we had access to technology, access to a supercomputer, if we each had an iPad or a computer with Web access, what could we do that’s very powerful that we couldn’t do without those tools?” If we ask those questions, if we think about them and collect the best answers, then we’ll start moving toward better use of technology.

In the first few chapters of your book, you talk about how people’s attitudes toward technology are extremely important, and how even a few cases of unreliable technology can turn someone off from technology use. What are some ways to avoid this phenomenon?

One of the ways is to be a little tolerant. All technology breaks down. When our cars break down, we don’t immediately get back on horses. And we don’t teach horseback riding in school. When technology breaks down, we fix it and move on.

The frustration level with technology is now getting faster and faster. It’s on the way to becoming more transparent, but it’s still complex, and it’s still going to have frustrations with it.

What are some ways tech-savvy teachers can implement your ideas in the classroom? Or are they already doing so?

Many are. There’s a lot of great stuff out there, but the very best thing we can do is more sharing. I would like to see every teacher who has experienced success, or thought of an interesting idea, make a 30-second YouTube video, so if another teacher wants to figure out “how do I teach X, Y, or Z,” they would be able to find it. Sharing is probably number one.

Thinking carefully about how the technology would enhance learning, and take it much further, is another one. Particularly in the realm of connectivity, because that’s the element we didn’t have before. We had libraries, we could always do research—it might have been a little more onerous, but we could do it. What we couldn’t do is connect ourselves around the world. We couldn’t read the tweets coming out of the Middle East, and we couldn’t tweet back. We couldn’t connect with experts with Skype in real time. All of those things are new, and unless we decide that we’re going to include those technologies, we’re not going to have the kind of education that our kids need.

Is there anything else you want to add?

Yes. One of the big issues with technology is that teachers think they have to teach everything they covered before, cover their entire curriculum, and then add technology on top of that. Well, if you think of it that way, it’s not going to happen.

What has to happen is, technology needs to be integrated in the curriculum in the same ways that reading and writing are integrated. With that, we also have to delete some of the curriculum. Teachers need to take responsibility for looking at the curriculum and saying, “This is worth two weeks, and this is worth two sentences.”

So share, imagine, and integrate technology. Oh, and partner with the kids. Teachers that are most successful with technology are not the ones who do it for the kids. They are the ones who partner with the kids and let them do most of it while the teacher takes a supervisory role, in terms of asking, ‘Is this high quality? Are these the right questions we should be asking?’ And so on. It’s very important that teachers reserve the intellectual roles because kids might not need as much help with the technology.

A version of this article appeared in the October 03, 2012 edition of Education Week as Q&A: Quest for ‘Digital Wisdom’ Hinges on Brains and Machines

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Recruitment & Retention Webinar
Recruiting and Retaining a More Diverse Teaching Workforce
We discuss the importance of workforce diversity and learn strategies to recruit and retain teachers from diverse backgrounds.
Content provided by EdWeek Top School Jobs
Student Well-Being Webinar Boosting Teacher and Student Motivation During the Pandemic: What It Takes
Join Alyson Klein and her expert guests for practical tips and discussion on how to keep students and teachers motivated as the pandemic drags on.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Holistic Approach to Social-Emotional Learning
Register to learn about the components and benefits of holistically implemented SEL.
Content provided by Committee for Children

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Principal
Meredith, New Hampshire
Inter-Lakes School District
Elementary Principal
Washington State
Wenatchee School District
Principal
Meredith, New Hampshire
Inter-Lakes School District
Elementary Principal
Washington State
Wenatchee School District

Read Next

Curriculum Leader To Learn From Taking an Unapologetic Approach to Curriculum Overhaul
An academic leader at a charter school has overhauled curriculum—and proved that instructional rigor and anti-racism can co-exist.
11 min read
Danielle Kelsick, Chief Academic Officer for the Environmental Charter Schools in Redondo Beach, Calif.
Danielle Kelsick, Chief Academic Officer for the Environmental Charter Schools in Redondo Beach, Calif.
Nick Agro for Education Week
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Whitepaper
Survey: Increased ebook usage & value amid COVID-19
With COVID-19 altering nearly all aspects of daily life, including the way students learn, this survey sought insight from those on the f...
Content provided by OverDrive
Curriculum Opinion Ian Rowe Discusses 1776 Unites and His Efforts to Promote a Vision of a Unified America
Ian Rowe, co-founder of 1776 Unites, discusses the initiative and its efforts to promote pathways to opportunity for Americans of all races.
7 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Curriculum From ‘Stunning’ to ‘Surprising’: How News of the Capitol Attack Was Repackaged for Schools
Experts criticized ed-tech company Newsela for sugarcoating the violent insurrection when it adapted an Associated Press story for schools.
6 min read
A man dressed as George Washington and holding a Trump flag kneels and prays near the Washington Monument on Jan. 6.
A man dressed as George Washington and holding a Trump flag kneels and prays near the Washington Monument on Jan. 6.
Carolyn Kaster/AP