ARE CURIOSITY AND CRITICAL ANALYSIS THREATENED?

Richard Evans is the Chairman of the CIPHE’s Education and Training Group. In this issue, Richard covers the issues surrounding Information Technologies Communications (ITCs).

Currently there is a great debate about the advantages and disadvantages
of the ITCs particularly with retrieving information from the internet. I would like to explore some of the issues as they relate to education and in particular to teaching and learning. I fully accept that there are many advantages associated with such technologies. However it is essential that the disadvantages must be acknowledged and recognised by teachers and the learners.

Evidence from a number of research projects has shown a number of the negative consequences of using the internet and other elements of ITC.
One good example is the research on American lorry drivers and the impact of using Satellite Navigation Technologies (SatNavTech). Detailed analysis has shown that their ability to interpret spacial concepts e.g. maps has significantly declined. Researchon the brain has shown that the cells associated with this ability have declined e.g. reading maps with a reduction in the number of cells associated with special ability.

Other elements of concern relate to the consequences in assessing information via various programmes e.g. Wikipedia, that can create a real danger of developing a culture of instant gratification by the users especially younger learners. Evidence is also appearing that only too often the users take the information as absolute and

do not question its validity. They often do not carry out further comparative research or investigation to check its truth. I believe this will eventually lead to a reduction in the essential elements of critical analysis and curiosity which have always played a crucial part in education and training and will, in turn, impact negatively on the teaching and learning processes and present challenges to teachers.

The range of information on Wikipedia and other data sources are truly amazing, but it is essential that the above consequences must be recognised.

Curiosity is a very essential attribute in learning and in life in general. Young children exhibit great curiosity asking parents repeatedly ‘what is that’ etc. but evidence is now showing that later they can lose that attribute and this is increasing with their use of the internet and other ITC devices.

Obviously teachers realise these dangers as the role of ITC increases in education and training, but the popularity with young people of these technologies presents real challenges to the teachers and tutors. Many young people become addicted to these technologies and it is likely to impact on both the theory and practical elements of programmes. After all, many subjects in education and training are all about asking how and why questions e.g. science and philosophy.

It will be interesting to see how teachers and tutors manage the use of such techniques, and how they get the learners to realise the dangers and limitations of using the internet and other ITC, to reinforce faculties such as curiosity and critical analysis skills. It will not be easy as people are so enthusiastic about these technologies, many having become addicted to their use.

Another issue of concern is the copying of content downloaded from the internet when answering class/homework questions and again not really understanding what they have copied. Also, research has highlighted cheating during examinations using laptops and mobile phones.

Finally, one must not forget the dangers of the microwave radiation that the computers and other hardware emit. As always there must be a sensible balance and moderation of use of these devices.

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