Friday, December 10, 2004

fyi Contrarian finding: Computers are a drag on learning


Pointer to article:

Kobielus kommentary:
I'm not going to critique the objectives, scope, methodology, metrics, and other aspects of this study. I'm just going to point out that computers are just a tool, and sometimes (often) they get in the way of critical thinking (which is a fundamental skill for learning anything). I don't know about you, but I find the glut of files, e-mails, blogs, applications, navigation paradigms, etc.) to be maddening at times, especially when it's updated in real-time, continuously, like a firehose or the frickin' 24-hour news channels. Don't you just want, sometimes, to turn it all off and listen to some great music? Or walk and talk and socialize with friends and just get out of the house? I know I do. I don't even compose my poems on my computer. It's too distracting. I write them in my head while exercising, walking, shopping, or listening to boring tech presentations. I only transcribe them to Word when they're pretty much all composed. Only when my thoughts are composed and crystalline and fit for presentation.

Note that the people who learn most while using computers are those who write e-mails the most (at least, that's what the article says the study found). That sounds about right. One of the best ways to truly nail down, crystallize, and reinforce your learning is to regurgitate back in writing. Back in my school days, I loved essay questions on tests. Those were the only questions that made me feel like I was truly demonstrating the knowledge I had gained. And that's because I could write it back--truly compose my thoughts--in a way that I could stare at and say, yeah, I got that down solid. That was the content that I tended to retain longest.k

On a tangent, I saw a story on the TV a few days ago about a study regarding what "truly makes people happy" (i.e., people were asked to report, throughout their respective days, what they did and how they felt about it). The study didn't ask people to report generally what makes them happy in life in general; that kind of question generally elicits the usual "spend time with the kids" response that respondents feel the questioner wants to hear. What people actually said, as they logged their daily activities, that they most enjoyed sex (duh!), socializing, and reading. One of the activities that makes them least happy was using computers. Yes, we all know that computers are often a pain in the rear end. This finding is no surprise. Few things cause me more stress than computers, especially when they screw up and I need to fix them myself (and find a workaround to continue with my computer-intensive work and home life).

Damn computers. You know what makes me happiest with computers? Writing e-mails and writing blog posts. Yeah, writing. Every message or post an essay, composed and crystalline. Makes me happy as hell. I think I'm learning something in the process.

And I hope you are too.