Digital technology has certainly facilitated all aspects of our life and has ushered in an era of abundance. We are now more dependent on the services of digital technology to run our day to day life, do education, and connect more than any time in human history. We have all seen and felt the central place of digital technologies especially during the pandemic when suddenly we were forced to e-migrate to the cloud. 

That said, digital technology comes with a price: divided attention and short focus.

The now normal digitally-world we live in is full of all kinds of digital distractions. Everything online vies for our attention. Indeed, our dopamine receptors are working almost non-stop to keep us satisfied. The result? A divided attention that is hardly capable of doing any kind of what Carl Newport called ‘deep work’, that is a work that calls for sustained period of concentration and high levels of engagement. 

Indeed,  the impact of new technologies on our cognition has been the centre of a growing body of research. The common theme in this research is that technology is rewiring our brains and shaping our thinking processes in unprecedented ways. 

The list below features a sample of seminal works in this regard. These are books I curated specifically for teachers and educators to help them understand the impact of technology on the human cognition and learning.

1- Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, by Sherry Turkle  (Author)

“Alone Together is the result of Turkle’s nearly fifteen-year exploration of our lives on the digital terrain. Based on hundreds of interviews, it describes new unsettling relationships between friends, lovers, parents, and children, and new instabilities in how we understand privacy and community, intimacy, and solitude.”

2- The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, by Nicholas Carr  (Author)

“Carr expands his argument into the most compelling exploration of the Internet’s intellectual and cultural consequences yet published. As he describes how human thought has been shaped through the centuries by “tools of the mind”―from the alphabet to maps, to the printing press, the clock, and the computer―Carr interweaves a fascinating account of recent discoveries in neuroscience by such pioneers as Michael Merzenich and Eric Kandel. Our brains, the historical and scientific evidence reveals, change in response to our experiences. The technologies we use to find, store, and share information can literally reroute our neural pathways.”

3- Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, by Marshall McLuhan  (Author), Lewis H. Lapham (Author)

“This reissue of Understanding Media marks the thirtieth anniversary (1964-1994) of Marshall McLuhan’s classic expose on the state of the then emerging phenomenon of mass media. Terms and phrases such as “the global village” and “the medium is the message” are now part of the lexicon, and McLuhan’s theories continue to challenge our sensibilities and our assumptions about how and what we communicate.”

4- Hamlet’s BlackBerry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age, by William Powers  (Author)

“A crisp, passionately argued answer to the question that everyone who’s grown dependent on digital devices is asking: Where’s the rest of my life? Hamlet’s BlackBerry challenges the widely held assumption that the more we connect through technology, the better. It’s time to strike a new balance, William Powers argues, and discover why it’s also important to disconnect. Part memoir, part intellectual journey, the book draws on the technological past and great thinkers such as Shakespeare and Thoreau.”

5- The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom, by Evgeny Morozov  (Author)

“The revolution will be Twittered!” declared journalist Andrew Sullivan after protests erupted in Iran. But as journalist and social commentator Evgeny Morozov argues in The Net Delusion, the Internet is a tool that both revolutionaries and authoritarian governments can use. For all of the talk in the West about the power of the Internet to democratize societies, regimes in Iran and China are as stable and repressive as ever. Social media sites have been used there to entrench dictators and threaten dissidents, making it harder—not easier—to promote democracy.”

6- The Glass Cage: How Our Computers Are Changing Us, by Nicholas Carr  (Author)

“In The Glass Cage, best-selling author Nicholas Carr digs behind the headlines about factory robots and self-driving cars, wearable computers and digitized medicine, as he explores the hidden costs of granting software dominion over our work and our leisure. Even as they bring ease to our lives, these programs are stealing something essential from us.”

“Deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It’s a skill that allows you to quickly master complicated information and produce better results in less time. Deep work will make you better at what you do and provide the sense of true fulfillment that comes from craftsmanship. In short, deep work is like a super power in our increasingly competitive twenty-first century economy.”

8- Who Owns the Future? by Jaron Lanier  (Author)

“Lanier has predicted how technology will transform our humanity for decades, and his insight has never been more urgently needed. He shows how Siren Servers, which exploit big data and the free sharing of information, led our economy into recession, imperiled personal privacy, and hollowed out the middle class. The networks that define our world—including social media, financial institutions, and intelligence agencies—now threaten to destroy it.”

9- You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto Paperback, by Jaron Lanier  (Author)

“Informed by Lanier’s experience and expertise as a computer scientist, You Are Not a Gadget discusses the technical and cultural problems that have unwittingly risen from programming choices—such as the nature of user identity—that were “locked-in” at the birth of digital media and considers what a future based on current design philosophies will bring”.