Externalizing memories through tech and society

Those who disagree with using technology in classrooms, are often drawing conclusions based on the sad cognitive decline from those who use tech as a crutch.


Technology is ubiquitous. There’s no need to consult a map when you can simply plug an address into your phone for directions. Don’t bother remembering what year a war was fought if you can look it up online. The way we learn, remember, and even think is being restructured thanks to omnipresent devices that are often doing these tasks for us.

So much of the world’s knowledge is stored in an abstract cloud accessible within seconds. The mere knowledge that we can access a wealth of information practically anytime makes us less likely to download this information to our own brains.

Studies have shown that when asked to recall a fact, we are more likely to remember what folder on our computer we have the fact stored in.

Technology is not the only way we externalize our memories: we do the same within our social circles. We rely on friends and family to remember bits of information so that we don’t have to, like the way you remember the time an event starts while your spouse remembers the address. Many times we don’t even realize we’re doing it – we don’t bother remembering information that we know our companion will Technology in classroomsremember better.

This group recollection is known as transactive memory, and it’s what helps us determine what is worth remembering and what isn’t. Outsourcing your memory to the people around you frees your mind of unnecessary clutter so that you can learn and remember the things you actually care about.

In our daily lives, deep skills and some surface information are necessary to know, but things that are easily reached via technology and relatively non-essential on a daily basis no longer need to be memorized.

We need to know our home address and one phone number, but we don’t need to have the exact conversion for kilograms to ounces stored in our minds. We need to be able to read, process and create cogent arguments, but we do not need the exact date of the Gettysburg address.

Technology frees us to do both higher and lower order thinking.

Schools are beginning to understand and embrace the concept of using the internet as an external mind. Classrooms across the nation are beginning to include computers, tablets, and even students’ personal mobile devices as part of the learning process. Those who don’t agree with using technology in the classroom are often drawing their conclusions based on the sad cognitive decline from those who use tech as a crutch.

Tech need not be a crutch. There is a growing understanding that, if used correctly, technology can be an incredible tool to open a student’s mind and create opportunities for growth that may not have taken place otherwise.

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