Sunday, 1 March 2009

Homo Sapiens Digital: Digital Wisdom

Marc Prensky, the man who coined the term, "Digital Native" and "Digital Immigrant" has just revised his idea. In a recent article, he puts forward his thoughts about "Digital Wisdom".
Digital technology, I believe, can be used to make us not just smarter but truly wiser. Digital wisdom is a twofold concept, referring both to wisdom arising from the use of digital technology to access cognitive power beyond our innate capacity and to wisdom in the prudent use of technology to enhance our capabilities. Because of technology, wisdom seekers in the future will benefit from unprecedented, instant access to ongoing worldwide discussions, all of recorded history, everything ever written, massive libraries of case studies and collected data, and highly realistic simulated experiences equivalent to years or even centuries of actual experience. How and how much they make use of these resources, how they filter through them to find what they need, and how technology aids them will certainly play an important role in determining the wisdom of their decisions and judgments. Technology alone will not replace intuition, good judgment, problem-solving abilities, and a clear moral compass. But in an unimaginably complex future, the digitally unenhanced person, however wise, will not be able to access the tools of wisdom that will be available to even the least wise digitally enhanced human.

Moreover, given that the brain is now generally understood to be highly plastic, continually adapting to the input it receives, it is possible that the brains of those who interact with technology frequently will be restructured by that interaction. The brains of wisdom seekers of the future will be fundamentally different, in organization and in structure, than our brains are today. Future wisdom seekers will be able to achieve today's level of wisdom without the cognitive enhancements offered by increasingly sophisticated digital technology, but that wisdom will not be sufficient, either in quality or in nature, to navigate a complex, technologically advanced world.

Digital Natives are growing up in a different world to the one in which we live and work. They have already transformed their own world and we will be able to track their impact on society year by year as they become a greater proportion of the workforce. I agree that it is likely that young people who combine traditional skills with high levels of digital literacy are going to be the leaders of society in years to come. Schools have a responsibility to prepare young people for the world that they are going to inhabit. Independent schools have established educational traditions and these will continue to have great value, but they also need to embrace new technologies if they are to prepare young people for the world of the mid-twenty-first century.

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