We do many tasks which would best be handled by computers. Systematic, lower level information tasks should be automated so that we can focus our efforts on the more advanced functions of the human brain – socializing, pattern recognition, and extracting meaning.
Google (or pick any other intelligent search engine) is a great example of this. Google applies it’s algorithms to the information on the web…and as end users, suddenly our ability to locate needed information becomes much simpler. A task that used to take days, weeks, or longer, can now often be researched and the large aspects of the field framed within a few hours (or less). Or consider an application like Bloglines which allows users to aggregate different information sources into a central platform. Tasks which previously required hours can now be completed in minutes (unless you suffer from “RRS-itis” – which is a psychological conditional that seeks to subscribe to additional web feeds for every minutes saved by using an aggregator:)).
What do we do with the time saved? We produce more; more learning, more knowledge, more integration, more everything. We take the time saved and work harder in other areas. This approach sucks. Apparently Pascal once stated that “all of man’s problems stem from his inability to sit quietly in a room alone”. In a learning sense, we have a similar challenge. It seems that we will utilize virtually any tool of distraction to prevent a “quieting of our minds”. Save a few minutes by using Google, spend more time searching other resources. Save time by having technology manage part of our information, immediately set out to read even more.
Learning has a reflective component. I’m convinced that most people are smarter than they think. They’ll trust a bad idea they read in a book sooner than a good idea they arrive at through reasoning and reflection. Our restlessness is a challenge to learning. We rarely slow down enough to begin to use our advanced thinking skills. Instead we skim the surface of knowledge, learning to distrust our own intuition and cognition.
This is why I find blogs and wikis to be very valuable learning and knowledge tools. When a learner sits down and blogs, she/he is engaging in a reflective process. Nebulous thoughts and feelings are put to words. External ideas are scrutinized. The natural capacity of harmonizing our emotions and thoughts with ideas and concepts is evoked. A small cognitive and emotional oasis in the desert of busynes. And, I imagine more learning occurs in only a few minutes here than hours any where else…