I read two interesting articles over the weekend both worth a peep. They got me thinking about a generation growing up in an information vortex and the need to develop a vital frame of reference for agile minds to grow.

The first article in the weekend paper by Maryanne Wolf “Learning to think in a digital age” as far as I can tell originally published 5 September in the Boston Globe.

To Socrates, only the arduous process of probing, analyzing and ultimately internalizing knowledge would enable the young to develop a lifelong approach to thinking that would lead them ultimately to wisdom, virtue and “friendship with [their] god.” To Socrates, only the examined word and the “examined life” were worth pursuing, and literacy short-circuited both.

How many children today are becoming Socrates’ nightmare, decoders of information who have neither the time nor the motivation to think beneath or beyond their googled universes?

Will they become so accustomed to immediate access to escalating on-screen information that they will fail to probe beyond the information given to the deeper layers of insight, imagination and knowledge that have led us to this stage of human thought?

Or, will the new demands of information technologies to multitask, integrate and prioritize vast amounjts of information help to develop equally, if not more valuable, skills that will increase human intellectual capacities, quality of life and collective wisdom as a species?

…there should be a developmental perspective on our transition to a digital culture.

….Children need to have both time to think and the motivation to think for themselves, to develop an expert reading brain, before the digital mode dominates their reading. The immediacy and volume of information should not be confused with true knowledge.

As technological visionary Edward Tenner cautioned, “It would be a shame if the very intellect that produced the digital revolution could be destroyed by it.” Socrates, Proust, and the images of the expert reading brain help us tothink more deliberately about the choices we possess as our next generation moves toward the next great epoch in our intellectual development.

The second published in the Times Online by Michael Parsons about the charms and dangers of exploring virtual worlds

We have created an endlessly proliferating series of virtual spaces to explore. Imagine being a teenage boy today. You can jump into online massively multiplayer games like World of Warcraft, or play online against people around the world on Xbox Live in a game like Gears of War. You can jump into in the endless whirl of social networking sites like Bebo, or MySpace, or Facebook. You can explore the labyrinthine worlds of music, film, and television online, hunting out specialist websites to pursue your particular taste in obscure cultural niches.

The reality is we don’t have a wood between our worlds. We have the World Wide Web, and it’s this web between the worlds which is our jumping off point for all the new spaces that digital culture is enabling.

Like Polly and Digory, we also risk getting lost in this endless series of virtual worlds, and I think we’re naïve if we underestimate the challenge we are setting ourselves as a culture in finding order and meaning amidst so many different opportunities. The wood between the worlds is beautiful, and quite peaceful: nothing ever happens there, and no one really belongs there. I hope we teach our children the skills they will need to keep jumping between worlds safely. Sadly, and unlike the heroine in Frank L. Baum’s Wizard of Oz books, they can’t just click their heels together to find their way back home.

I started to wonder about the hunger for knowledge and meaning in a digital age. I wondered how many adults assume to know more simply because they can access more . “The immediacy and volume of information should not be confused with true knowledge”

If we are to set a precedent for the rising generation transitioning to a digital age, we need to get some fresh perspective ourselves. As we further develop collaborative models of innovation, perhaps we need to maintain a standard that begins with self examination as Wolf highlights. We need to step back from the information vortex at times; not be so overwhelmed with the information and connections that we fail to harness the true potential of web2.0.

Funny, how the minds of children tell us so much about our own. Both authors are considering the next generation, innocent and fresh minds diving into the digital age. It’s a perspective worth considering.

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