Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Learning, Memory, & Knowledge Post-Google #SXSWedu

Learning, Memory, & Knowledge Post-Google 
SXSWedu 2017 Featured Session

Andrew Smith Lewis 
Cerego - Co-Founder & CEO

Seth Godin famously argued that there is “zero value in memorizing anything ever again.” In the post-Google, mobile era, where information is constantly at our fingertips, this may very well be true, but how does this cultural shift away from memorization actually impact knowledge and learning? In fact, memory may be more important than ever in role as the foundational knowledge from which our learning (and information seeking) takes shape. In this talk, Andrew Smith Lewis will look at the science of memory and how technology is changing the cultural value of memory and knowledge. He’ll also explore the tradeoffs we may be making in the post-Google era as how we learn evolves.


I love Google. It's Like the Brain I don't have!
Some people hate Google.
We all have a relationship with Google!

Some people believe Google is replacing our brains.

Is Google making us smarter or dumber?

Learning - process of turning info into knowledge
Knowledge -
Memory - glue between learning and knowledge

Have we outsourced our brain to a purposefully built ad server that makes $70 billion a year?

There's a lot of "stuff" on the internet. Over 1 billion websites as of 2014.

Ad serving's purpose is to make money.

Some fake information is harmless (Elvis is alive.) Some is very harmful (fake news).

Neuroplasticity - the brain's ability to learn and rewire

  • People who are blind have increased activity in the visual cortex when engaging in braile reading or music
  • London Taxi drivers
Google effect
  • Google becomes external memory
  • We now remember where to find info instead of the info itself
We now live in an age where we no longer value thinking about things deeply but value information instead.

We are less effective when we multitask. What we are really doing is task switching w/out paying full attention to any one task. This creates continuous partial attention and that's bad for memory.

Repetition is key for memory. Short term memory - repeat to remember something. Long term memory - remember to repeat.

The act of recollection helps strengthen memory. 


There is a chemical basis for the change we are undergoing. Dopamine gives us the tingle when we find something we like on the Internet. This creates a dopamine loop. We develop a tolerance to dopamine and need more/higher levels. This causes us to want to search for more information instead of building a solid foundation of knowledge. We're rewiring our brains to find information rather than think about information.

Seth Godin & Eric Schmidt
Both arguing that memory can be outsourced.
"Zero value in memorizing anything ever again."
"Anything worth memorizing is worth looking up."

Memorization transmits culture.
Without a foundation of knowledge, we get unchallenged facts.


Ways Google is Making Us Smarter

  • Access to information.
  • Information is organized.
  • Education used to be based on location. Now it can be anywhere.
  • Helps us find experts and expertise. Ex: Nate Silver
  • Shift to culture of learning
  • Unlocks the ability to take learning to new levels of complexity. (Think calculators!)
Education is what people do to you. Learning is what you do to yourself.  - Joe Ito

Girl teaches herself to dubstep: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OgzdDp5qfdI
  • Watch over and over - memorization
  • Practice practice practice - repetition
  • Learner Agency - learn what you want
People can shape their own brains. Ultimate personalization in learning.

Cognitive Bias - We see what we want to see. But if we understand this, we can push back against it. And as Google and Facebook to push back against it, too!

Data + Right Approach = Better Learning. Design experiences to help build and retain knowledge.


Learning is about compounding. The more you know about something, the easier and easier it is to learn more about it.

Would you want to remember everything? We can outsource to Google. But memory is essential to creativity.

We can combine ubiquitous access to information and leverage it for learning and creativity. There is no creativity without memory.

Educators should focus on the how, helping students learn how to deal with information. And how to find it. (For example, it doesn't make sens to ask Google, "When is my mother's birthday?")


Thought Question: How do we decide what's worth memorizing?


*********************************************************************************All original work in this post by Sandy Kendell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Please see specifics on my re-use policy in the right-hand column of my blog before re-posting/re-using any of my blog content.
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