Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What the Internet Is Doing to our Brains

Because of the internet, “deep reading that used to become naturally is a struggle.” So writes Nicholas Carr. Here is a thoughtful review of his book “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to our Brains” (W.W. Norton 2010). The reviewer is Anthony Cocciolo who teaches  at the Pratt Institute School of Information and Library Science. The review appears in the Teachers College Record, an online publication of the Teachers College, Columbia University. 

Carr relies on social science and neuroscience research to support his argument that the internet chips away at our capacity for concentration and contemplation. How does this argument apply to educators? The reviewer writes:

 I would argue that the challenge for educators and librarians is to find the right mix of deep reading and creative and media-based production. To push children in a single direction—deep-readers disconnected from media—would be a drastic disservice and make young people ill-prepared for twenty-first century living, not to mention miss out on the wonders of being an Internet citizen. However, if we allow young people to swing fully in the other direction, they will fail to experience the deep interior world that reading makes possible.

 Of course, these concerns haunt legal educators as well. We work in a field where deep reading is essential and thus struggle against the tide. At the same time, we must recognize that these future lawyers are going to prefer quick and often shallow answers in their research. Encouraging students to read deeply and also to read efficiently when suitable is our challenge.



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