Today’s Solutions: January 21, 2022

Clive Thompson likes to observe young people while they’re typing a Tweet on their phones. In the New York metro, for instance, or on a park bench. He noticed the Tweet-typing goes in a set pattern. First someone types a few words. Then they erase them. That’s followed by a few more new words, which are also erased. Then comes a process of thinking, gathering and ordering thoughts, and a spell-check. Finally the Tweet of 140 characters is published.
‘They work harder at that sentence than I ever worked on a sentence for a school paper!’ Thompson laughs. ‘Because this Tweet is going out to their friends, they want it to look clever and smart and funny.’
This example of how kids pick up a feel for writing and language by writing tweets is just one example Thompson mentions that shows how young people can learn from social media. The journalist, who is originally from Canada, thinks it’s high time to talk about the advantages which social media offer us as a new way to learn and think, and as a counter argument to the notion that the web is turning our young people into socially isolated zombies, who become aggressive from video games and can’t learn the write or spell.
Thompson wrote a book about it: Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better, in which he proves that the Internet and new technology increases our thinking. Google has become an endless memory bank, and on a daily basis people make decisions and choices based on apps and software. Kids now have access to so many more ways to learn that didn’t exist before.
With great enthusiasm Thompson talks about how his sons, both elementary school age, are learning by playing the game Minecraft. As a player in that game you get to creatively place or remove cube shaped pieces to build your own online environment. Initially, Thompson observed his kids tentatively trying out the game, but they quickly learned how it worked by applying different methods of learning; asking friends, looking up YouTube-tutorials, and checking online instructions, which they then shared with their friends. ‘It is absolutely superior to what I was doing at their age,’ says Thompson.
The Optimist spoke with Thompson and asked him how social media is making us smarter:

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