Different minds for different ages

BBC’s Virtual Revolution http://www.bbc.co.uk/virtualrevolution/ highlighted research, including JISC/British Library funded Google Generation Study http://www.jisc.ac.uk/news/stories/2008/01/googlegen.aspx that suggests today’s online culture produces/supports certain types of behaviour: a fast, shallow scan, over the ‘long read’.

The idea of the long read is interesting in terms of what I understand about constructivism. In order for me to fully learn/understand what is being explained to me I need to get my neurons firing off, forming new patterns. If I won’t concentrate enough then that article / textbook / course won’t be able to bring me new understanding. So yes, I agree too that the long read is important.

But the idea that everyone’s learning style is changing, and that there’s no going back, seems to me to be very ahistorical. Surely there is an ebb and flow of different styles of thinking, different approaches to problem solving, and different ways of communicating about the world?

Where would geology be without the victorian collectors, with their obsessive gathering, describing and classifiying? Or chemistry, without its risk-takers? Or art, without its misfits and depressives? And going back further its fascinating to wonder what type of people thrived when the romans came to britain, or the normans: people with a talent for translation and negotiation must have been highly valued.

It seems to me that with each new challenge or opportunity, different sorts of people rise to the challenge. Maybe what we need now *is* surface connectors, enough to carve out some shared consensus. The deeper thinkers follow on, that will come.

Maybe society visibly values those skills that it needs to hone fast, to respond to its environment. Some people will be rewarded for developing their behaviours in that direction, and once that is in motion we will value the next skillset we need.

Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device


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