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Kids Are Wired Differently

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In a book to be released later this month (August 18) called Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn, former Provost at Duke University and founder of the Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory (HASTAC), Cathy Davidson, makes a rather startling admission: She is dyslexic and did a lot of her homework with a blanket over her head.

Cathy Davidson had a feeling early on that kids were wired differently and took a chance. She made sure all incoming freshmen in 2004 got an iPod when they matriculated.

In Driven To Distraction: Getting the Most out of Life with Attention Deficit Disorder by Ed Hallowell and John J. Ratey, both regard ADD and AHDD "as a potential gift, if handled correctly."

Dr. Davidson, too, believes that, "If you are a successful entrepreneur in the United States, you are three times more likely to be than the general public to have been diagnosed with a learning or attention deficit disorder."

Importantly, she says, "attention blindness" as she calls it, "is key to everything we do as individuals, from how we work in groups to what we value in our institutions, in our classrooms, at work, and in ourselves ... [and] because of attention blindness, we often arrive at a standstill when it comes to tackling important issues, not because the other side is wrong but because both sides are precisely right in what they see but neither can serer what the other side does."

What Dr. Davidson started turned out to be a tsunami in the use of technology in education. Today we know a lot more about how kids learn and what we need to do to reinvent the curriculum.

Yet, we persist on the standard lecturing method -- mouth-to-ear approach -- and expect kids to listen and learn. And why do we still pump our young folks with Adderall -- it works sometimes I guess -- if what they really need is a curriculum that is engaging?

Part of the problem is a failure of imagination. The world has changed. K-12 and universities must change, too.

We need to seriously rethink the curriculum, and reinvent education, perhaps starting with the University.

For starters, we ought to be asking: What do our graduates need to know and why in this new global technology driven world? The university majors that exist today are not necessarily job related.

More importantly, a diploma or degree of any kind is no guarantee of a job. What is important is that young people "learn how to learn" (acquire genuine thinking skills) in and, if possible, find out what they can be passionate about.

With the proliferation of the Internet, the computerization of news archives and libraries available on the World Wide Web, literally thousands of references are available at the click of a mouse. The challenge today is not acquiring information; it is determining which information is relevant.

In an age where we are discovering that everything is connected to everything else, what we really need to do is create the interdisciplinary curriculum that emphasizes the new economy, the role of technology and the spirit of enterprise -- specifically creativity and innovation. And use the technology of our age to do so.

A fact of life in the 21st century is that technology has moved faster than anyone imagined.

Unless we use technology to reinvent our current systems of education, we all will suffer as more and more people are left behind the learning curve, and left behind the mainstream of world economic development.