Using our newfound time

As I sat down to write this column, I wondered to myself if all my electronic gadgets were dumbing me down or making me smarter.
The more I have read, the more confused I’ve become.
I remember Mrs. Benson, my Grade 1 teacher, having special books for us to practice our printing. We would be judged on our up and down letters, and how far a “g” dipped and curled under the line.
We strived for perfection.
She also drilled us on our addition and subtraction of simple numbers—and even to two-digit numbers.
Today, I don’t know how much time is spent on printing—judging from some of the letters to Santa that passed through our hands this Christmas. But I do know that most children, by the time they reach age six or seven, know how to use a keyboard and many already have a smartphone.
With built-in calculators and word recognition, many of those mundane tasks we mastered in early grades now can be performed by those small computers. And the youth of today, when texting, are using short forms and letter and word sounds to talk.
Every family that I knew on my block either had a set of Britannica or Compton’s Encyclopedias that had an annual update with new information. Today, the library is the web browser on a tablet, cellphone, or home computer.
“Wikipedia” is now the encyclopedia of choice. Instead of having to read many parts of several books to write an essay, today it is as simple as cutting and pasting.
This begs the question—are we really learning about a subject that we are writing, or are we repeating information that already is created?
The speed of the Internet can place hundreds of articles before us, but are we distracted by the beeps for e-mail, Facebook postings, Tweets, and pop-up ads that circle around the web page.
A study has found that we are distracted every three seconds by something that is happening on our computers. Before we had longer attention spans with fewer interruptions.
Do all those interruptions intervene on our ability to absorb information?
I’ve found that it often is easier to print out the documents I’m wanting to read instead of having them in front of me on the screen. I easily can be distracted by the e-mail popping up or a new posting of news.
But when I turn the screen off and focus on the hard copy, I can absorb the information better and take the time to understand and form my own conclusions.
Someone asked in a study, “Do I really have to know and retain this information when it can be quickly retrieved from the Internet?”
Is it better to know how to look for the information and then be able to retrieve it, or is it better to know and understand the information and be able to apply to other problems?
In the future, computers will take over many of the tasks we now perform.
Computers will drive cars and trucks while we sit back and enjoy the ride and read a book or watch a show.
Our kitchen appliances will turn into electronic marvels that will prepare a meal from a simple verbal command. Others will pick up, wash, and put away clothes. They’ll operate the lawn mowers and weed the lawns.
They are tasks future generations will wonder why we did them?
The question is, what will we do with our newfound time?

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