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    MIND, BRAIN, AND EDUCATION

    Mind, Brain, and Education

    in the Digital EraAntonio M. Battro 1 and Kurt W. Fischer 2ABSTRACTComputers are everywhere, and they aretransforming the human world. The technology of computersand the Internet is radically changing the ways that peoplelearn and communicate. In the midst of this technology-driven revolution people need to examine the changes toanalyze how they are altering interaction and human culture.The changes have already permeated societies around theworld, altering learning, teaching, communication, politics,and most aspects of human interaction. The possibilities forimprovingeducationaleffectiveness seempowerful, as a resultof an information revolution with online access to inniteinformation and numerous teaching and learning activities of adults and children at school, at home, and in public places.An urgent need is for systematic longitudinal studies of whathappens with learning and teaching as people use computersand play with the Internet. Perhaps the new technologiesmake possible a new kind of constructive dialogue, withintertwiningof teachingandlearningin adynamicdoublehelixof questions and answers, of modeling and experimentation.

    This special sectionwill dealwith (1) uses of newtechnologiesto help people teach and learn more effectively, (2) uses of individual laptops to help children learn, (3) creation of newtools for learning and assessment, and (4) techniques thatimage brain structure and activity.

    We live in a digital era, and education is being transformed by the new digital environment, leading to new possibilitiesfor teaching, learning, and pedagogy. Today we can studyhow teachers interact with students in extended digitalenvironments. Importantly, not only do adults teach in digital

    environments,butchildrenteachtooinwhatamountstoanewdigital ecosystem for learning and teaching! Indeed the digitalenvironmentisbecominganexpandedschoolwithoutborders,

    1Academia Nacional de Educacion, Buenos Aires2Harvard Graduate School of Education

    Address correspondence to Kurt W. Fischer, Harvard Graduate Schoolof Education, Larsen Hall 702, Appian Way, Cambridge, MA 02138;e-mail: kurt_scher@harvard.edu.

    led by the omnipresence of computersfrom the powerfulminicomputers in cell phones to computers in laptops and somany other places.

    This journal is dedicated to publishing articles thatilluminate how neuroscience, cognitive science, pedagogy,and technology can work together to transform learning and teaching (Fischer et al., 2007). The possibilities for improvingeducational effectiveness seem powerful, and we would liketo facilitate communicating about ways to use technology toimprove education.

    These papers as well as several papers to appear in this journal in the future were presented as part of the SixthAnnual Workshop on Mind, Brain, and Education at theEttore Majorana Foundation and Center for Scientic Culturein the ancient city of Erice in Sicily. The topic for this yearsworkshopwasEducationintheDigitalEra,withafocusonthediverse uses of technology to facilitate learning and teaching.

    TheInternetby itselfhascreateda revolutionofinformation,with online access to thousands of teaching and learning

    activities of adults and children around the world, at school,at home, and in public places. There is an urgent need forsystematic longitudinal studies of what happenswith learningand teaching as people use computers and play with theInternet. There is such a large scale of communication, and much of it involves learning and teaching on a large scale! Howcan we assess what is happening with the emergence of somany new ways of communicating? What effects are all thenew kinds of communication having on children and adults?How are people being changed by the emergence of so manynew ways of staying in touch with friends and family, and somany new ways of reaching out to the rest of the world?

    For example, students transmit hundreds of text messagesa day. What effects do those activities have on writing and communication skills? Thousands of people now take coursesonline, making use of the tools of computers and the Internet,using communication technologies that were not availableonly a decade ago. What happens to brain and behavior withthis rapidly evolving dynamic system of teaching and learningskills?

    Education is still essentially about virtue, about theunfolding in our minds of the values of truth, goodness,

    2012 the AuthorsVolume 6Number 1 Journal Compilation 2012 International Mind, Brain, and Education Society and Blackwell Publishing, Inc. 49

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    Antonio M. Battro and Kurt W. Fischer

    andbeauty (Goldin, Pezzatti,Battro, & Sigman, 2011). We canstill ask the central question of Meno to Socrates, rst asked 2400 years ago:

    Canyoutellme,Socrates,whethervirtueisacquiredbyteachingor practice; or if neither by teachingnor practice, then whether it comestoman bynature, orin whatother way?( Plato, Meno).

    Perhaps the new technologies make possible a new kind of constructive dialogue, where teaching and learning arestrongly intertwined in a dynamic double helix of questionsand answers, of modeling and experimentation. Can the newtechnology make possible a new kind of neurocognitivesupport for learning and teaching? Surely the digital eraprovides challenges for traditional pedagogy and with thosechallenges come many potential new ways of learning and teaching. How can scientists and teachers join together tobuild useful tools to help people learn and develop toward truth, goodness, and beauty and away from war, pestilence,and death?

    At the Sixth Course of the International Workshop onMind, Brain and Education at the Ettore Majorana Centrein Erice, August 37, 2011, we invited a group of expertsfrom the Americas, Europe, and Asia to discuss key issuesrelated to education in the digital era. With this issue of Mind,Brain, and Education, we are establishing a special focus onhow technology is transforming communication and learningaround the world. We begin in this volume with two areaswhere technology has created potential revolutions for peoplewith handicaps: the application of digital technologies for theeducation of deaf children (Denham andBattro) and the use of

    laptops to facilitate learning and adaptation in children withmotor disabilities (Mangiatordi).The education of the deaf has changed dramatically

    in the last 10 years with the implementation of advanced communication technologies (Denham & Battro, 2012). High-performance digital hearing aids and advanced cochlearimplants have transformed the lives of many children,including in the most successful cases helping deaf children todevelop hearingand speaking skills so that thousands of themcan be included in mainstream education. This seems to be

    the rst time that children with an important handicap havebeen transformed so dramatically by an electronic advance.Thousands of children are able to hear and speak for the rsttime, although unfortunately many others do not benet inthe same way from cochlear implants and hearing aids.

    For children with motor disabilities, the use of digitalequipmentisalsoofparamountimportanceandmustbeimple-mented case-by-case using special interfaces and software tocontrol the computerized environment. For many children(such as two of the three cases described by Mangiatordi,2012)computer interfaces can createnew possibilitieseffec-tively new abilitiesthat open up important ways of actingand learning. It is usually possible to createa digital prosthesisto help with motor disabilities (Battro, 2000).

    In the following issues, we will continue to publish otherarticles on ways that technology can facilitate learning and teaching, including (1) the uses of individual laptops to helpchildren with digital education, (2) the digital revolutionin learning and assessment, (3) brain imaging techniques,(4) portable lowcosttelescopesfor the laptops in schools, and (5) other topics dealing with the uses of new technologies tohelp people teach and learn more effectively. We expectthat these contributions will elicit further improvementsand developments in many arenas connected with digitaleducation.

    REFERENCES

    Battro, A. (2000). Half a brain is enough: The case of Nico. Cambridge:Cambridge University Press.

    Denham, P. J., & Battro, A. M. (2012). Education of the deaf and harof hearing in the digital era.Mind,Brain,andEducation, 6(1), 5153.

    Fischer, K. W., Daniel, D. B., Immordino-Yang, M. H., Stern, EBattro, A., & Koizumi, H. (2007). Why mind, brain, andeducation? Why now? Mind,Brain, and Education, 1(1), 12.

    Goldin, A. P., Pezzatti, L., Battro, A. M., & Sigman, M. (2011). Froancient Greece to modern education: Universality and lack ofgeneralization of the Socratic dialog. Mind,Brain, andEducation, 5,180185.

    Mangiatordi, A. (2012). Inclusion of mobility-impaired children inthe one-to-one computing era: A case study. Mind, Brain, anEducation, 6(1), 5462.

    50 Volume 6Number 1

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