The Human Brain in the Digital Age

Cathy N. Davidson’s book, Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way we Live, Work, and Learn, is about the human brain and human potential in the digital age.

The heart of the book focuses on how the phenomena of “attention blindness” shapes our lives. In order to focus and pay attention to any one task we filter out many other things that are happening around us.  As a result we have blind spots. But we don’t all filter in the same way.  Our focus is idiosyncratic.  While attention blindness pigeonholes our perspective, Davidson argues that the digital age is providing new ways of seeing and learning that’s based on multitasking our attention.  Social media is allowing us to aggregate perspectives and generate a bigger and more accurate picture by seeing together.

While digital tools offer ways to mitigate the problem of attention blindness, our institutions of learning and work are still designed to meet the social and economic needs of last century. How do we prepare students for the challenges and workplaces of tomorrow? Now You See It provides glimpses of the future by highlighting visionaries and pioneers who are helping to shape the nature and direction of education and work.

Social Media and Learning

We are witnessing the emergence of something profound: humans, historically divided by geography, culture and creed, are beginning to connect and collaborate on a scale never seen before. The driving force behind this creative wave are digital tools and networks that allow new forms of collaboration and knowledge creation.

What starts out as social networking is evolving into social production.  We’ve witnessed how self-organizing groups, leveraging social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Wikipedia, have launched revolutions throughout the Arab world and created the most importance reference work in the English language in less than 10 years.

The opening paragraphs from my latest PBS article on the case for using social media in education.

Diigo: Information Management

Diigo is a powerful information management tool. Diigo allows you to collect highlights, bookmarks, notes, screenshots and audio while exploring websites. You can access your Diigo account anywhere and share your collection easily through Mac or PC, any browser, iPad, iPhone and Android.

As educators we have access to free premium accounts that provide these additional features:

  • You can create student accounts for an entire class with just a few clicks (and student email addresses are optional for account creation).
  • Students of the same class are automatically set up as a Diigo group so they can start using all the benefits that a Diigo group provides, such as group bookmarks and annotations, and group forums.
  • Privacy settings of student accounts are pre-set so that only teachers and classmates can communicate with them.

Classroom Salon

Classroom Salon is a web-based social networking application that allows groups to explore texts deeply. By aggregating annotations and comments Classroom Salon provides student-centered collaboration.  Through working in teams students are able to enhance their perspectives on a given text through community feedback and interpretation.  The upshot is that students are able to improve their critical and creative analysis in ways that could not be achieved by working alone.