In the WSJ article on June 5, 2010 Does The Internet Make You Smarter or Dumber?, Clay Shirkey author of Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age and Nicholas Carr author of The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains describe opposing viewpoints – who is correct? As usual, they are both right and wrong. I happen to agree more with Shirkey’s perspective but I have to acknowledge the research described by Carr. The bottom line is that it is a revolutionary time, the digital world has arrived and it is what we do with it that matters. There are always negative byproducts – we can’t stop innovation because of those – we need to learn to mitigate the negative while moving ahead with new developments, we simply cannot go back to the way things were.
To apply the title to the use of Virtual Worlds – Do Virtual Worlds Make You Smarter or Dumber? Well, again – it’s what you do with it. Some of it will be inane and meaningless and even bizarre, there are also positive aspects like collaboration, experiential learning, engagement, constructivism, improved communication, and motivation. As educators we need to take advantage of innovations and learn to use them to benefit our students. That means as educators we will need to learn to do things differently, to use these technologies to instruct, assist and guide our students. There are examples of this being done effectively. Those who are at the forefront have intellectual curiosity, a sense of adventure, and the realization that it is a different world than the one we were students in.