Exploring Google + Internet Resources as
a memory amplifier. Spending more time thinking and less time
navigating among web sites and forgetting.
Thoughts about building an IT infrastructure that facilitates
Internet-centric problem solving
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Education is all about enabling learners and training their brains.
Enabled learners can adapt, chase their curiosity and achieve excellence.
Web-accessible tools that facilitate transport of information from wherever
to your desktop enable learners and problem solvers. Google is one example
of an enabling transport tool.
Disabled learners avoid Internet accessible resources, shun
search engines and fail to grasp that Google and the Internet can
extend their memory. These learners are destined to a rather dull and boring life.
My brain does four things: doing, learning/memorizing,
remembering and thinking. Our current educational objective
seems to be patterned after learn-everything-just-in-case
-you-might-need-it, which clearly produces folks with a highly developed
skill for memorizing.
( Click here for background about the biology
of learning and remembering and background
about the case for elearning.
For me, as one who always had trouble with memorizing,
the cost was high: I performed poorly on tests that required remembering and
there was less time for fun things like thinking and problem solving.
I believe that memorizing is essential during the early
stages of brain development.
Memorizing builds my store of facts and concepts,
the substrate for future thinking and problem solving.
But when should I shift my educational objective from
adding to my mental store of knowledge and improving my skill in
memorizing/remembering to improving my skill in thinking/problem solving?
Before the Internet, there were no good alternative ways to access information.
The only way for me to locate and transport data from some repository
to my desk was to travel, phone or through discussions.
With the global connectivity provided by the Internet, I have an alternative.
I am convinced that the information store touched by
the global Internet-memory
(Internet + Google + a desktop/laptop computer)
exceeds that of my biological
memory, the combined memory of my colleagues and the library.
Moreover, retrieving information from this global information warehouse
does not depend on the
interval of time that has lapsed since I last retrieved it. (The internet
does not forget unless someone removes the information.)
I can tap into this reservoir of information by improving my skill in
searching for and transporting information to my desk for my personal use.
I believe that combining my biological memory with my Internet-memory makes
me a better problem solver because I spend less time trying to remember
information and concepts that I forgot. I can re-target remembering time
to productive information locating, data transporting,
thinking and problem solving.
By realizing my Internet-memory is a primary information resource for thinking
and problem solving, I believe I can reduce the time spent
developing my memory skills (whether explicit training,
or implicit training associated with memorizing
new facts that will soon be forgotten) and increase the time I spend learning
and solving problems. Said another way, the time
is right for building an Internet-centric educational strategy
that invests more time in developing critical thinking and problem solving
skills and less time in developing memory and remembering skills.
Consequently, there is no cost effective justification
to memorize rarely used material
since it will be soon forgotten. I prefer to redirect
time memorizing soon-to-be-forgotten material
toward improving thinking and problem-solving skills. Remember, every
minute spent memorizing soon-to-be-forgotten information is lost.
Every minute spent improving thinking skills is an investment in the future.
Improved skill in critical and analytical thinking at the
expense of memorizing unused material
will clearly give students a better return on their educational investment.
Education is also all about adaptation. Insights derived from research today
become products tomorrow. Our service-based economy is driven by new ideas,
new products and new tools. The pace of change
impacts all of us - whether professor or student or clerk or auto mechanic.
Tracking and adapting to change
requires convenient access to information. The Internet levels the
information access playing field - whether in the upscale suburbs of
Westchester County or in a tribal village in Gingee India.
Rapid change and a level information access playing field alters the
traditional relationship between students and faculty.
I do not see myself as a professor and those young people
around me as students. Rather I see myself as a senior, experienced learner and
my younger colleagues as junior, inexperienced learners.
These junior learners bring
energy and curiosity to our discussions and help me identify what changed
since yesterday and where, within the Internet, I can look for assistance.
I find a major obstacle to shifting education from one-time
just-in-case learning, to continuous Internet-centric
is that few appreciate the importance of learning
with (contrasted with from)
computers and the Internet. Learning is not anytime-anywhere access to my
lecture in powerpoint format.
Learning is all about conveying my ideas
and insights where the computer and the Internet are both essential tools
of conveyance and exploration. I believe I can more effectively chase my
curiosity with Google and the Internet than I can without it.
I need to find ways to help my colleagues
make the transition from viewing education as simply presenting students
to understanding education is really brain development where
conveying ideas and insights is the name of the game.
One cannot be a serious educator without fully appreciating the interaction
between memorizing and the
forgetting curve. The forgetting curve measures the loss of memory
as a function of the time since a fact was last remembered.
Said another way, the forgetting process is the
opposite of the learning process. Learning requires repetition in order
to move it from short term to long term storage. Forgetting requires the
absence of repetitive use. Lack of
repetition weakens the memory with time.
After a surprisingly short time, the learned or memorized fact that has
not been recently used is no longer rememberable, a mental disuse atrophy.
I find that my learning efficiency is dependent on both my curiosity
and my ability to continue to fuel my curiosity as I chase it down some path.
I find that my learning is accelerated if I have a frame of reference or
scaffolding, from which I can hang new insights and concepts.
Such a frame of reference is essential for efficient curiosity
chasing. Google and access to Internet resources fuel my curiosity
by reducing the mechanics of information access to a minimum.
Now that Internet access is pervasive, I am less likely to miss an
opportunity to chase my curiosity when it is unpredictably ignited.
With these pages I am exploring the use of Internet tools to construct
an Internet-centric learning center that facilitates just-in-time
can often act as a surrogate memory for infrequently used facts and concepts.
I find that navigation within a web site often as important as the content
of a web site. I am exploring this by building my content within a
consistent navigational framework consisting of 1: a hat with links
to major resources and a search box and 2: a left menu bar to facilitate
locating site-specific material.
I am using our
portal ( http://my.musc.edu)
to harvest and
aggregate information from around the world in order to amplify
my Internet-memory. This frees more time for doing/learning/thinking - thereby
joy of learning.
I have pieced together some thoughts about
necessary to support Internet-centric learning and Internet-memory.
Josh and I
are identifying what we call main ideas, the scaffolding we use
to build our understanding of different disciplines. This scaffolding
also helps remembering and understanding.
The overall goal of my work is to identify and develop the
infrastructure components essential for just-in-time Internet-centric
learning centers, using all the tools, tricks, gimmicks etc to make learning
both efficient and fun, while sparing us the agony of trying to remember
things we never use.
Where to go?
I think great progress can be made by joining RSS feeds with documents
we publish. RSS feeds, consolidated within a portal or an aggregator will
reduce time spent chasing links to access something. Thus time required for
remembering URLs and link chasing is available for thinking
and problem solving.
- We must publish both documents and abstractions via
RSS (why? It saves clicks
and avoids remembering URLS at the receiving end)
- We must harvest web resources with
RSS aggregators in order to
consolidate harvested information. Why? It saves clicks and avoids
remembering URLS. In other words - you can re-target time required for
clicking and remembering to thinking and problem solving.