Does technology make you smarter?
In the article "Do Technologies Make Us Smarter? Intellectual Ampliﬁcation With, Of, and Through Technology" Salomon and Perkins offer a three-way framework to answer the question--whether and in what senses do technologies make us cognitively more capable?
Consider how each of the following themes represents a way in which cognitive technologies might "make us smarter":
Effects with Technology
Effects with technology transpire when technologies have functionality that enables them to mirror intellectual functions. The effects then enable the user to form a partnership with the technology that "frees the user from distractions of lower-level cognitive functions" (p. 74). When this occurs, the effects with technology likely lead to improved intellectual performance (Perkins, 1993).
So, does technology make us smarter? Salomon and Perkins say it boils down to this: "Cognitive technologies-technologies that afford substantial support of complex cognitive processing make people smarter in the sense of enabling them to perform smarter" (p. 76).
Effects of Technology
According to Salomon and Perkins, it's also important to consider whether experiences with cognitive technologies can develop cognitive capabilities that remain available without the tool at hand. While Effects of technology can be positive or negative, they must persist for a period after the technology is no longer in hand. To show studies in support of effects of technology, Salomon and Perkins point to other cases. Research conducted in the 1980's for example explored how learning computer programing might enhance thinking. While findings varied, Salomon and Perkins say the work shows clear examples of effects of.
Effects through Technology
Here Salomon and Perkins build on the first two themes--effects with and effects of-- that were previously explained by Salomon, Perkins & Globerson (1991) and present a third theme for discussion--effects through technology--which they posit necessary to address the impact of "radically transformative" technologies. Here they consider how technologies have impacted warfare or the construction of communities. Through the use of technologies, effects that would have been otherwise unimaginable have been achieved. Salomon and Perkins point to how the internet has transformed the nature of teamwork. Effects through technology have made it possible for people to collaborate regardless of their geographic location.
Salomon and Perkins conclude by comparing the three themes to pieces of a puzzle. In other words, the themes are worth putting together to answer to determine what relative magnitudes of impact we can anticipate and how quickly we can expect such effects to emerge. When pace is the point of comparison, effects with excels. This is also true when comparing magnitude of impact because of the immediate payoff of effects with and the improvements made over time. Salomon and Perkins note that effects of technology are less in terms of magnitude of impact and the pace at which it takes for the effects to emerge. For these reasons, Salomon and Perkins answer the question "does technology make us smarter" with a "nuanced yes."
Salomon and Perkin's three prong approach to thinking about the impacts of technology on cognition provides a simple framework that invites innovators to begin thinking more deeply about the potential affordances of technologies. Salomon and Perkins note that "it takes time for innovators to see the possibilities, time for early trials, time for a kind of Darwinian sifting of those new ways of working that truly offer a lot, and time for the new ways of working to pass into widespread use" (p. 81). A limitation of the framework work is discussed in the conclusion when Salomon and Perkins point out that they have shown examples of how effects of technology, effects with technology, and effects through technology can positively impact cognition in a controlled environment when in reality the three effects occur in complex systems. For this reason, the pace and realization of their full potential will take longer to realize.
The SAMR model is one of several technology integration models that exist to guide educators to be purposeful about technology integration. In their discussion of intellectual ampliﬁcation with, of, and through technology, Salomon and Perkins explain that "learners need time and guidance to achieve the effects that many contemporary cognitive technologies afford" (81). This got me thinking about how SAMR might provide a model that guides educators to facilitate the type of guidance students might need to achieve all three effects. The following connections can be seen between the two models:
Effects with Technology - Effects with technology transpire when technologies have functionality that enables them to mirror intellectual functions.
Effects through Technology - Through the use of technologies, effects that would have been otherwise unimaginable have been achieved.
While the second theme--effects of technology--does not have as strong of a connection to SAMR, I cant help but wonder if with time and lessons that purposefully apply the other two effects, more effects of technology will emerge. In other words, the cognitive residues that enhance performance even without the technology will become more observable.
Salomon, G., & Perkins, D.N. (2005). Do Technologies Make Us Smarter? Intellectual Ampliﬁcation With, Of, and Through Technology.
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