Cancelling the Digital Divide

The quality of education is discussed in many countries. It is interesting to parents in the Czech Republic as much as in the US. In the US, one person, Paul James Gee – Presidential Professor of Literacy Studies at Arizona State University – believes that the base of the education problem comes from both our natures and social separation. He thinks a solution is very close – digital media.

Professor Gee worries that education for most people is directed toward finding them jobs. Three fifths of the jobs available are in the service sector which is often low paid and has no benefits. Professor Gee would like to see education redirected. “It has to be about making people feel like they can participate in society, so whether or not they have a high powered job they can still participate,” he told The Word.

Professor Gee wrote a book, The Anti-Education Era: Creating Smarter Students through Digital Learning. In it he talks about how people with different social backgrounds and skills can use digital media to interact and reach common goals. Sim City is one example of a digital community which allows people to learn skills in an easier way.

“Digital media allows us to really see human intelligence at its best when it’s collective,” Professor Gee said.

You might wonder why we need digital media. Why can’t we just collaborate? Professor Gee says part of the problem is the way our brains have evolved. His argument uses evolutionary psychology. This theory says the human mind evolved to survive a life of hunting and gathering. Just as hunter gatherer societies travel light, our minds still do. We only take the information we need. Often we separate this information through stories and the meaning we give to them, according to Professor Gee. Everyone only has a limited number of mental tools so we are less effective on our own.

It is this mention of human nature which makes the book refreshing. We are biological as well as social beings. We have a capacity for reason but it might not be unlimited.

The book is a passionate plea to look at social and environmental problems but it is more than that. Professor Gee says it is important to address economic concerns along with people’s health or quality of life.

Which brings us back to education. By encouraging these digital means of interaction people can feel more involved and contribute to society while also becoming smarter themselves.

Original article by Ryan Scott – Sydney, Australia. Text edited by The Word’s methodology team

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Cancelling the Digital Divide Quiz: Medium

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The quality of education is a topic of discussion in many countries. It is interesting to parents in the Czech Republic as well as in the US. In the US, one person, Paul James Gee – Presidential Professor of Literacy Studies at Arizona State University – believes that the education problem comes from both our natures and social differences. He thinks a solution is very close – digital media.

Professor Gee is afraid that education for most people is directed toward finding them a place in the economy. Three fifths of the jobs available are in the service sector. It is often low paid and has no benefits. Professor Gee says the role of education should be directed somewhere else. He thinks that people should feel like they can participate in society, so whether or not they have a challenging job they can still participate.

Professor Gee talks in his book called The Anti-Education Era: Creating Smarter Students through Digital Learning about how people from different social classes and with different skills can use digital media. Thanks to digital media they can cooperate and reach common goals. Sim City is one example of a digital community which makes people learn skills more easily. Another example is the game Fold.it, in which players in ten days solved a problem which scientists couldn´t solve for 15 years.

Adverbs of frequency: ‘Often we filter this information through stories.’ In this sentence, ‘often’ is the adverb of frequency. Other common adverbs of frequency are: never, hardly ever, rarely, seldom, occasionally, sometimes, quite often, often, frequently, always. Adverbs of frequency tell us how often something happens.

Why do we need digital media? Why can’t we just collaborate? Professor Gee uses evolutionary psychology as an explanation. We only take the information we need. Often we filter this information through stories and the meaning we give to them, according to Professor Gee. Everyone only has a limited number of mental tools so we are not as effective when we are on our own.

If we support these digital means of interaction people can feel more involved and contribute to society. And they also become smarter themselves.

Original article by Ryan Scott – Sydney, Australia. Text edited by The Word’s methodology team

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Cancelling the Digital Divide Quiz: Mild

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The quality of education is a topic of debate in many developed countries. It engages parents in the Czech Republic as much as the US. In the US, one person, Paul James Gee – Presidential Professor of Literacy Studies at Arizona State University – proposes that the roots of the education problem in part stem from our natures and social divisions and the solution could be quite literally at our fingertips. Digital media and the opportunities they afford could provide a more effective way to make us smarter.

If something is ‘at your fingertips’ it is very close. ‘The scientist knew the answer to his research was at his fingertips if only he could find the right formula.’

Professor Gee worries that education for the large majority of people is directed toward finding them a place within the economy. Three fifths of the jobs available are in the service sector which is often low paid and has no benefits. Professor Gee proposes a redirection in the role of education. “It has to be about making people feel like they can participate in society, so whether or not they have a high powered job they can still participate,” he told The Word.

In his book The Anti-Education Era: Creating Smarter Students through Digital Learning, Professor Gee shows how using digital media, people of varying skill levels and social backgrounds can interact to achieve common goals. Examples include the game Fold.it, in which players fold proteins. In 2011 players managed in ten days to solve a problem which had baffled scientists for 15 years.  Sim City is another example of a digital community which allows people in a less restricted and inhibited way to learn skills.

“Digital media allows us to really see human intelligence at its best when it’s collective. It’s when you’re networked with other people and other opinions, with other skills and very good tools then you can leverage massive information,” Professor Gee said.

You might wonder why we need digital media. Why can’t we just collaborate? Professor Gee finds part of our failing in our natures, namely the way our brains have evolved. His argument draws on evolutionary psychology which proposes the human mind evolved to cope with a life of hunting and gathering. Just as hunter gather societies travel light, our minds continue to do so. We only take the information we need and we tend to filter this information through stories and the meaning we give to them – or so Professor Gee’s argument goes. With all of us carrying a limited number of mental tools we’re less effective on our own. Professor Gee singles out experts as especially worrisome as they tend to disregard what they don’t know.

“Humans have always been what I call ‘plug-and-play’ devices. That is, our mind and language evolved to engage in collaborative action. Think about it, the theory came from that you have primates that needed to hunt under very hard conditions. They’ve got to socially cooperate, so we’re really built to think and act with other people. In the modern world, acting by yourself, thinking by yourself, thinking your intelligence is enough, is very dangerous when the world is as complex as it is now,” he explained.

It is this acknowledgement of human nature which makes the book refreshing. We are biological as well as social beings. We have a capacity for reason but it might not be boundless. The other stimulating argument in the book is the importance of class, a concept Professor Gee acknowledges is not popular in the US but which must be addressed.

“For the first time in American history the gap in schooling by class passed the gap by race,” he explained.

While the book is certainly a passionate plea to address social and environmental problems, a passion Professor Gee exhibits in conversation too, it would be a mistake to write this book off as just another liberal tirade. Certainly, Republican policy comes in for some criticism but it’s more the tendency for those policies to ignore the complexity of the situation. Professor Gee acknowledges the need to address economic concerns along with, not at the expense of, people’s health or quality of life. He also argues in favor of balancing both conservative and liberal views.

If you like to tinker with something, you play with it casually and for no real result. ‘Tom loves to tinker in the garage – rearranging his tools and doing other small projects.’

Conservatives are those who are cautious about big change and who wish ‘to tinker around the edges’. Liberals push for more systematic change when the problem has become too great.

“What I’m really saying in the book is both perspectives are correct. We need to have those two viewpoints in conversation with each other as we make policy. That’s exactly what we don’t get in America,” Professor Gee said.

Which brings us back to education. By encouraging these digital means of interaction people can feel more involved and contribute to society while also becoming smarter themselves.

“We have to start having a deeper conversation but it’s really hard to have a deeper conversation in a country which lionizes stupidity,” Professor Gee said.

Ryan Scott – Sydney, Australia

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Cancelling the Digital Divide Quiz: Spicy

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