I definitely share the author’s view that “knowledge is a prerequisite to imagination”. While I’m all for encouraging creativity and innovation, they can’t arise out of a vacuum. One needs a base of knowledge before making new connections , discoveries and understandings. The book does a decent job of highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of the general Eastern (Asian) and Western approaches to education. She writes about the benefits of memorization and the need to inculcate resilience in our kids. She praises memory-based and conceptual-based learning. Ultimately, the author advocates practising the best of both worlds, and balancing our expectations with what the world needs from our children. Overall offers nothing revolutionary but still a good attempt at raising awareness.
I like how the author links the human blink with a cut in a film, and how the decision on when you time the cut influences the audience’s appreciation of the shot/film. There are a number of good advice and tips for anyone looking to become a better editor. I think editing is an artform that is hard to learn and even harder to teach so his writing is very much appreaciated. However, I feel his thoughts related to equipment and methods of old, present and possible future, while insightful, go a bit too much into detail and subsequently felt draggy to me. Overall it’s still a pretty short book so definitely worth a read.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I liked it for the insights into effective learning presented from the students’ point of view. I managed to find new ideas and rediscover nuggets of information that can probably help me frame my teaching (and students’ learning) better and more effectively. The relevant checklists and questionnaires are pretty helpful. Overall I found her book easy to read although a bit repetitive at times (e.g. when she has a quote of the student raising a point and then touch on it again without much to add in her own body of text later on). I found the case studies at the end of the book a little unsatisfying. I would have liked to know a little more about how/if the objectives of the projects have been met (maybe contrasted with how different the results may have been otherwise). This book is definitely worth a read!
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
After quite a bit of starts and stops I finally completed reading this book and I must say that while it did not enlighten me as much as I had hoped, I did enjoy reading it a lot. The 1st third of the book discussing how technologies (e.g. the clock, print, books) have affected humanity, society and productivity etc. is quite dry. While I do understand the reason for laying the foundations for what’s to come, it did feel draggy. Maybe it was just me re-acclimatizing myself to reading a book deeply after not doing it for awhile?
Anyway it gets much more interesting afterwards! Some things I picked up along the way:
– With the impermanence and update-ability of the digital book what does that say about the writer’s attitude towards the work (i.e. in achieving perfection) and the pressures imposed on completing it? By extension how does that shape our attitude towards writing an email/online posting versus a letter in the past?
– The Internet is an environment that inherently “promotes cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning”. It also encourages positive reinforcements (usually instantaneous) and commands our attention relentlessly. Click on those hyperlinks and do it more often!
– When engaged in deep reading our brains are in effect under-stimulated, as opposed to their over-stimulation when we go online. Is the latter an ideal state? He suggests not.
– The difference between good and bad distractions.
– The mistake of looking at the brain, memory and thinking as a computer, data storage and processing. Retrieving a thought from long term memory is not the same as retrieving a piece of data from storage.
– A clear overview of the workings of and relationships between short term, working and long term memories.
– By making things easier. more efficient and more user-friendly, it takes away the pressure on our brains’ working memory, supposedly for other more ‘useful’ business. It is actually making us more disengaged, less thoughtful, less reflective etc.
– Recognizing the value of attentiveness, note-taking and memorizing and how they are progressively being reduced/overlooked.
Towards the end of his observations and warnings the author offers a suggestion to begin reclaiming our ability to pay attention, strengthen our memory and improve cognition: quieten the mind (e.g. remove bombarding stimuli, take walks in peaceful surroundings, look at calming pictures). I particularly appreciate how he brings up examples and snippets of neuroscience research that highlight how the brain is affected by what we consistently subject it to (due to its plasticity) and how as we continue to use technology it is also reshaping us. Carr says that while technological progress and advances cannot be reversed (without adverse effects on civilization), he hopes that we “won’t go gently into the future our computer engineers and software programmers are scripting for us”. We have to be aware of what all this is doing to us and what we stand to lose, not just what we gain. This book has definitely given me useful things to mull over and bring up for discussion, especially in my role as an educator.
I picked up 2 books on one of my now-rare visits to the Woodlands Regional Library – Nicholas Carr’s “The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains” and Matthew Kelly’s “Off Balance: Getting Beyond the Work-Life Balance to Personal and Professional Satisfaction”. Both books appealed to me due to their nice compact size, relatively short page numbers, and being in line with my present interest/concern. It is a little ironic though that I started on both at about the same time (read the 1st few pages), but eventually I’ll likely pick one and finish it proper before diving into the second. Reviews hopefully to follow…