Friday, July 6, 2012

Technology versus the Brain

Recently I read an article on how technology is causing our kid's education to be dumbed down.  It was by Konstantin Kakaes and called "Why your kids can't add without a calculator." The article reported that old textbooks, which really taught math, should be the ones being used, not the new technology where the computer or calculator does everything.  Below is a guest blog by my spouse, Chris Brown.  He relates how the teaching of math in such a way can be applied to teaching on the water navigation :

As you well know I am involved in teaching marine navigation. The same issues arise in navigation as does with math. To put it simply, the modern world, aka Technology, is taking over. Some of this is good and some of this is bad.

In navigation, it is simply a matter of running down to the marine store and plopping down several thousand dollars and a person has a very complete navigation system that could literally take him around the world. (Actually a simple system could be purchased for a few hundred, but this takes a little more knowledge.) We call the general phenomenon: "Too Much Money, Too Much Boat!"

So the person gets all this stuff installed (probably hiring some professional installer to do so). Then they watch a few videos and maybe even have the installer give them a few basics. From there it is a matter of pushing buttons and the boat miraculously follows a line drawn on the electronic chart, right before their eyes. Basically they don't have to know a thing, or at least very little (like not hit the dock when coming in or avoiding other boats, although there are instruments that can take care of that for the person too).

But, this person doesn't have a clue what is happening in their marine environment. And there is plenty going on. The electronics are flashing away and they are sitting back enjoying the scenery. But without some basic knowledge, these fancy navigation tools can lead them into terrible danger without their even knowing it -- these tools lack intelligence to make decisions that one might face if anything goes other than to plan. Plus, if the electronics fail -- oh, oh, what now?

Without a basic, traditional foundation in marine navigation, or in mathematics for the student, there can be no personal growth. For the student it is even worse. Intellectual curiosity requires a prepared mind. Watching a computer screen won't do that for a student.

It would be like watching people play songs on a piano on TV and then wondering why he or she can't sit down and play "mom's" old upright. 

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