The Future of the Mind – Martin Westwell

This presentation was given to the AAIBS 2009 Conference by Martin Westwell Science21 (Adelaide)

Westwell argued that it was not simply about evidence based practice; it was more about evidence informed practice and pedagogy; otherwise we’d head towards a ‘one size fits all’ policy, which isn’t the direction we want.

He begin with the characteristics, skills, capacities at school that are likely to lead to social and economic prosperity in a time of increasing change but also warned of the dangers and challenges of trying to predict the future.

Nice point: Your mind is essentially your personalisation of your brain, which he proved by showing us two photos (a house, a boy) which meant not much to him, but a lot to him, because it was his house and his child. Our brains are wired by our experiences and our responses to our thinking, about the connections we’ve made in our brain cells.

So, change the environment, change the thinking. So Google changes the thinking eventually, but our systems respond by going back to basics, banning notebooks, increasing end of year written exams etc. He showed us www.coursework.info which had made a business model out of ‘inspiration in a instant’.

We’ve gone from question rich, answer poor to question poor, answer rich.

Another good point: ‘socialisation, rather than information, has become the primary use of the internet’; young people have become very good at discerning from authentic to synthetic material, arguing that was why many young people had moved from mySPACE when it was bought by News Limited, and those people had twice forced Facebook to back-flip on changes it wanted to make.

It’s not the technology that changes the way you think; it’s about you and what you do with it.

Positive users of technology used technology to reinforce existing positive relationships; very few, very strong. Students who fell into the withdraw and isolated category tended to be users with low levels of social engagement and interaction, finding it just as difficult in the online world as the ‘real world’. However, technology does give young people access to extremes of behaviour.

He also talked about the dangers of limitation by categorisation, discussing IQ tests and planting doubt in young people about their aspirations and gave some examples of messages that black students had received unconsciously (this is why streaming doesn’t work)

See implicit.harvard.edu for more on this

More about Martin Westwell – http://www.flinders.edu.au/science21/our-people/professor-martin-westwell.cfm

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