According to recent research, “human memory is reorganizing where it goes for information, adapting to new computing technologies rather than relying purely on rote memory. We’re outsourcing “search” from our brains to our computers.”

Putting Google in the headline captures people’s attention but I believe we should consider the effect of social media too.  Our daily milieu includes RSS news feeds, Facebook updates, tweets, text messages, and blog posts.  How many of us use those tools to get information?  I do.

What are the implications for learning?  Ubiquitous access to information has expanded the phenomenon of informal learning.  Wikipedia describes informal learning as, “semi-structured and occur[ing] in a variety of places, such as learning at home, work, and through daily interactions and shared relationships among members of society.”  This is not new.  Wisdom has always been passed from generation to generation.  Everyone has taught and learned from our peers.

But there is a difference between simply consuming information and learning.  Surfing the web and staying informed via social media requires very little cognitive effort.  In Bloom’s taxonomy the lowest level of cognition is knowledge or remembering.  If the research cited above is accurate, the internet is causing us to remember less, in other words rely less on our memory.  Does this mean that we forget information as quickly as we take it in?  Probably not.  Years of cognitive research is clear that the brain stores the information we consume.  So how can we make use of this information?

One way is to blog.  Taking time to reflect on the substance of an article, news item, or other information moves your cognitive activity from knowledge to comprehension.  One step may not seem like a big deal but it the difference between being a consumer of information and actively engaging in learning.  I believe that is one of the under-appreciated aspects of blogging.  The process of writing this post not only has the potential of  influencing others (hopefully for the better) but it also enables me to integrate the substance of the article into my knowledge base.

The great thing is its free.  It didn’t require a budget, a meeting space or a team of developers.  All that is required is an engaged mind that does not simply consume information but is intentional in understanding what it is taking in.