Is the internet closing our minds?

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In my last post, I mentioned Seimens’ idea that social networks filter resources and draw attention to important topics. Seimans (2010) also stated, “In order for these networks to work effectively, learners must be conscious of the need for diversity and should include nodes that offer critical or antagonistic perspectives on all topic areas. Sensemaking in complex environments is a social process.”

NPR’s debate show, Intelligence2 recently posted an episode where the question for debate was, “Is The Internet Closing Our Minds Politically?” the debaters present compelling arguments for and against the motion that the internet is closing our minds.

On the one hand, we have access to more ideas, in more areas, on more topics, from more perspectives, more quickly than ever before. But on the other hand, as search becomes “smarter” and more personalized, is it more likely to provide a given individual with links that will more likely support her/his own existing views? If an individual is using his/her social network as a filter for topics to help make decisions on what is important, is it more likely that their social network will be people that are like-minded, and therefore filtering out opposing perspectives? Interesting.

In the end, the votes were in favour of the motion, “when it comes to politics, the internet is closing our minds.” But the value of this episode is in the arguments. They helped me to see more clearly, the need for diverse perspectives and intentionality in constructing one’s social network to be able to highlight a range of these diverse perspectives.

The debate specifically addresses political views, but I think the cautions can be extended to many areas where there are  varying opinions and positions. These cautions and concerns may be able to be addressed by having a diverse social network and it may be one of the new (or not so new) roles of a teacher to help students to develop these networks.

It was a gripping and mind-stretching listen. Here is a link to the audio of the debate.

http://www.npr.org/v2/?i=151037080&m=151210990&t=audio

Seimens, G. (2010, Feb. 16) Teaching in Social and Technological Networks. Retrieved from http://www.connectivism.ca/?p=220

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