Talk:Transactive Memory & The Cognitive Consequences of Having Information at Our Fingertips

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This page was originally authored by Kevin Andrews 2014W-ETEC510-65D


Rationale for Picking This Topic

Lots Of Questions
Over the past several years teaching I would always notice every year that my students would take out their connected devices to Google and answer rather than think about the question. Especially in a computer lab situation, before students had a chance to read through an assignment, they would have a search page up typing in the first question or topic. It has been my experience over the past year that before a class discussion takes place students are searching for an answer online. Most students have a phone that has a connection to the Internet. Most students seem to rely on this device more than anything else they have. This is so different than my first teaching years and it seems to be a newfound digital trend.

When I came across the study conducted by Dr. Betsy Sparrow and her colleges I was intrigued with her results and how it correlated with my experiences. It was very interesting to note how her study was able to show that we have become a society dependent on our devices to the same degree we are dependent on all the knowledge we gain from our friends and coworkers. Be that as it may, I am still left with some unanswered questions:

1. How is new knowledge affected – specific subjects, new skill sets, etc.? Are new ways of learning and understanding improved when supplementing textbook exercises with Internet searches?

2. What is the effect on collective memorization? Collective identity? Collaborative projects?

3. Is there a correlation between performance/grades and usage of omnipresent information?

4. How do the results change when dealing with items of specific interest to the reader/user? What about items of discovered interest (i.e., the reader/user does not know until they discover something that it holds interest to them)?

5. What are the effects on memory when an item is ‘shared’ on a social media platform? Or when one engages in a series of debates and or running comment threads on said subject? What about crowdsourcing?

I do believe that because this topic is so new and research is limited it may be many years before all questions can be answered. What is known based on the research and empirical evidence from Dr. Sparrow suggests that when faced with difficult questions, people are primed to think about computers and that when people expect to have future access to information, they have lower rates of recall of the information itself and enhanced recall instead for where to access it. It is apparent that the Internet has become a primary form of external or transactive memory, where information is stored collectively outside ourselves.