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Do our smartphones make us dumb?

Do our smartphones make us dumb?

By Tim Meulemans, Vince Vitrano. CREATED Mar 27, 2013

MILWAUKEE - Mary Thompson has been teaching at Wauwatosa West High School for 20 years.  She has seen first hand how technology has changed the school and the students in it. 

Thompson says she does worry about it, but adds, "I think that's why we teach."

In her Hybrid Social Studies class, the text book is the internet.  Her focus has moved from making facts fun and memorable to teaching students how to filter all the info at their fingertips.  "We expect kids to be able to find those facts, read about those facts, get those facts."  She claims, "But when they come to the classroom we want to talk about, 'what does it mean?".

Dr. Piero Antuono, a neurologist at the Medical College of Wisconsin suggests the internet can change how we think, "The way we learn things today is different. The way we teach today is different."

Studies have shown our brains adapt to what we ask them to do, and not do.  He insists, "The ability to pause, and look at information and say 'what if this information was backwards...would it still work?'

We lack that in favor of just getting this information and lets go to the next step. "Because, how we read is as important as what we read. And in web "surfing" people just skim the surface. "We don't seem to value this ability to develop critical thinking."

Joe Du Fore proudly calls himself a geek.  He consults school districts all over the country on how to use technology.  According to him the medium itself has an effect on our thinking, "hard cover books, regular old books, help us focus. Internet helps us be creative and help us pull information in."

Du Fore loves the idea of "off shoring"--creating virtual classrooms in the cloud.  He does warn against "out sourcing" your brain though.  He says, "It's all about harnessing the good parts and minimizing those detrimental points."

Thats why teachers like Mary work hard to develop critical thinking--a skill her student's must use in our data driven world.

For junior Sara Amoroso it's working.  She explains, "It doesn't really matter that we are jumping around because we have to stop and think at some point."

Whatever we think about it, the technology is here to stay.  In fact, the Tosa school district recently made wifi available for all students inviting them to bring their personal mobile devices to school.