Thursday, February 14, 2013

Technology and the Christian - Part 10

(Read the previous articles to get the context. Part 1 here; Part 9 here)

Another thing that the all-encompassing presence of technology does is allows us to pursue topics that are of interest to us and to avoid topics that we don't think are all that interesting. We can have it our way. Now when it comes to educating our children and ourselves, it's important to expose ourselves to things we may not necessarily be interested in. When someone proposes a class in some unfamiliar area of Christian doctrine, there is a tendency to avoid that class or to allow your children to avoid such a study.

Bauerlein writes, “For education to happen, people must encounter worthwhile things outside their sphere of interest and brainpower. Knowledge grows, skills improve, tastes refine, and conscience ripens only if the experiences bear a degree of unfamiliarity.” (Dumbest, page 145)

From this I take it that we shouldn't try to get off easy when it comes to what kind of learning we subject ourselves or our children to. If we continually read things that we are already interested in we won't learn much. With our technology the tendency is to read about and follow trains of thought that are of interest to us. Because there is so much information available, we do not need to explore the unknown or difficult. One would think that having the proliferation of technology would allow people to learn more and grow more. But the natural tendency is the reverse. It is not natural to delve into something difficult or that we think we wouldn't understand. But if we don't, our minds won't be strengthened.

As technology moves along there is a tendency to substitute web reading for book reading. As an older person who was raised on books, I find that I read the web much the same way I read a book. This is not the case with younger readers. And if I spend more and more time reading online rather than in a linear text such as a book, my brain will be affected and changed as well. Book reading affects regions of the brain for language, memory and visual processing whereas web reading affects the brain areas for decision making and problem solving. (Dumbest, page 120) Why the difference? Because when reading the web there are hyperlinks and ads and other messages along the periphery of the text that causes your brain to constantly be making decisions as to the relative importance of these links.

Deep reading is hindered by problem solving. Intelligence requires taking things into short term memory and then weaving it into conceptual schemas in long term memory. If our problem solving areas of the brain are active, the concentration and focus aren't there to transfer information into long term memory. Our problem solving capacity has been using up brain power to decide on which links to click on or avoid. This can overload working memory which results in distracted-ness, “understanding” weakened by overloading

Why am I emphasizing all of this detail? Because I think we as Christians should have an idea of what's at stake. As we read the Bible and religious texts about the Bible and Christian devotional life, God wants us to meditate and reflect deeply on the truths they contain. In order for that to happen, we need to understand what we read and then take that information deeply into our lives where all sorts of interconnections can be made so that it affects our life. It's important to understand that out-of-control technology and its resulting distractedness can rewire our brain in such a way that understanding and assimilating the truths of Scripture can be severely impaired. We certainly shouldn't want that to happen to ourselves, and we especially need to be careful to prevent that from happening to those who are most susceptible to this danger, our children.

Next time we'll look at some additional steps you can take to help prevent this from happening to you and your children.

Part 11 available once it's been published here.

PDF version of the entire series

Bauerlein, Mark. The Dumbest Generation. New York: Tarcher/Penguin, 2008.

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