How the Internet Impacts Our Ability to Learn

Access to information is not an issue in our digital world anymore. We rely on the internet to find whatever data we need to solve our everyday problems, and we also count on the knowledge held by our digital interpersonal connections.

As a result, instead of memorizing and retaining information, we store it online, where we can easily and quickly access it.

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Researchers at UC Santa Cruz and the University of Illinois think that the easy access to information via the Internet is changing our ability to learn, recall, and solve problems using our brains. The more we rely on the Internet for one type of information, they add, the more we are likely to continue using technology to gather new information in the future.

Many people (consciously or subconsciously)believe that finding answers to common questions is much quicker when using the internet than using memory, which is exactly why we are becoming more dependent on technology to collect information, to store it, and retrieve it.

So how exactly is the Internet affecting the way we learn?

  • The internet has become our external hard drive so that we don't need to remember information-- we just look for it online. This can be illustrated by a study done by Science Magazine, where students were asked to type in pieces of trivia. Depending on their group, they were told that their information would either be erased or saved. The group that was told their data would be saved were less likely to remember. This study indicates that people have lower rates of recall when they can expect to be able to access information in the future.
  • The internet is impacting our focus, as we hardly give tasks our full attention anymore. As a result of multitasking and multi-screening, in order to be considered relevant by our brain, all learning experiences and communication need to be objective, practical, and impactful.
  • Children are learning differently, since "rote memorization is no longer a necessary part of education" according to ReadWrite. In order to have the knowledge and the skills to succeed in a fast-changing world, people need to develop the ability to navigate the sea of information and find what they need to solve real problems, instead of memorizing it.

With so much information within reach, our main challenge is to get better at determining what's relevant and reliable from what's not, and with practice, our brains are getting better at this task every day.