A recent Forbes article, written by tech contributor Anthony Kosner postulates on academic research led by psychology professor Timothy Wilson. Mr. Wilson works for the University of Virginia. The Anthony Kosner Forbes article in question starts off by citing numerous examples of what he believes to be an addiction to technology. According to the study, the majority of Android users check their phones 150 times or more each day. Early testers of wearable tech powered by Android, who used Samsung Gear Live and LG G Watches reported constant buzzing on their wrists. In other words, they were being incessantly prodded into checking out what their tech gadgets had to tell them. In support of his argument, this study cited by Kosner arguably concludes that Americans would rather administer small electric shocks to their own bodies rather than experiencing boredom.
The study in question is titled “Just think: The challenges of the Disengaged Mind” and was published in the prestigious academic journal Science Today. It was based on experiments aimed at testing people’s abilities to daydream and other forms of unstructured thought. In the final experiment of the study, 25 percent of the women and 66 percent of the men involved preferred to give themselves electric self shocks, instead of spending 15 minutes alone with their own thoughts. As such, the study practically begs the question: is technology actually decreasing our abilities to think for ourselves, or is it enhancing it? Is an addiction to technology ruining our human ability to think? As alarming as Wilson’s research may be, we believe there’s a lot to be said in favor of technology’s positive influence on many aspects of our lives. These aspects include items such as critical thinking, the teaching/learning processes, as well as our overall quality of life. Here are a few examples:
· The Reason!Able project for teaching critical thinking
A team of researchers from the University of Melbourne, Australia, started researching from the assumption that, while critical thinking is one of the most valuable skills involved in the educational process, it is also one of the most elusive and difficult to teach. The scientists, led by Tim van Gelder from the university’s Department of Philosophy, describe the project as a piece of software which is “part of a general method aimed at enhancing critical thinking skills”. Students who used the software eventually came to display dramatic improvements of their critical thinking abilities. The process involved creating dynamic ‘argument trees’, which the students would engage with – while also benefiting from the virtual assistance and advice of Socrates.
· MMIT for lung disease patients
Several researchers from the University of Manchester, along with major companies in the healthcare sector and six leading trusts from the NHS, are developing a device which could greatly ease the diagnosis of lung diseases. The upcoming device will allow conditions such as emphysema or chronic pulmonary diseases to be diagnosed with a mere breath into this electronic device. The medical gadget, which has already been invented by scientists Stephen Fowler and Maria Basanta, holds the potential to revolutionize the diagnosis and management of lung diseases in particular. It would also better medical care in general.
· Instant global access to education via infotainment
Ever heard of the popular web series Minute Physics? What about Glovico.org? The first is a YouTube channel which is essentially a sort of Holy Grail for the educational world. It makes physics demonstrations entertaining and fun to watch. Meanwhile, the second is an online portal where users can sign up for foreign language lessons with native speakers in remote locations. The lessons take place through video conference calls, in a natural, informal setting. Such educational tools would not be available to the general public, in the absence of the Internet (and technology in general) and its widespread usage across the globe.
· E-books for everyone
Though digital media has rapidly gained traction over the past couple of decades, our culture in the Western world still relies heavily on paper-based products. However, there are clear signs that this may alter gradually in the future. For one thing, Daytona Collehe and former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed a switch to digital college text books. Of course, several vendors already caught on to the commercial potential of such an initiative and began selling e-text books. CourseSmart is just one of them; for what it’s worth, the academic world still has their work cut out for them. The biggest boon would be the generalization of such digital books which are more than simple .pdf files, but are actually interactive course books.
· iPad apps for critical thinking
‘All well and good,’ you might be tempted to say, ‘but what about the gadgets we actually use on a day to day basis? Are they improving our critical thinking or are they not?’ We here at BurnWorld whole heartedly think they are. So do the folks over at Educators’ Technology. They’ve lined up no fewer than 10 apps for the iPad that stand to improve our critical thinking. There are interactive math games on the list, as well as critical thinking reading material, puzzles, storytelling-based games and so much more. Check them out. While you’re at it, feel free to contribute to this conversation in our Facebook page here!