Good read: Gadgets have their place in education, but they’re no substitute for knowledge

A good OpEd by Daisy Christodoulou for the Guardian that can be summarized as “immense computing power we possess will only make learning easier if we acknowledge it will never make it effortless”. And knowledge remains so very important:

For example, there’s good evidence that one of the most popular claims made for technology is false. It has been said by many – from headteachers to union reps to Today presenters – that the internet reduces the importance of knowing facts. However, research from cognitive science shows the vital importance of remembering facts. When we think, we use working memory and long-term memory. Long-term memory is vast, but working memory is limited to about four to seven items and is easily overloaded. By committing facts to long-term memory, we free up precious space in our working memory to manipulate those facts and combine them with new ones.

That’s why it’s so important for pupils to learn their times tables: memorising them doesn’t stifle conceptual understanding but rather enables it. We also need a framework of facts in long-term memory to make sense of what we find on the internet; studies show that pupils frequently make errors when asked to look up unfamiliar knowledge. Long-term memory is not a bolted-on part of the mind that we can outsource to the cloud. It is integral to all our thinking processes;researchers even suggest it may be “the seat of human intellectual skill”.

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