Learning and Technology– Why Sharing is Caring

We were all told as children that “sharing is caring” and that we shouldn’t be hoarders because it wasn’t “nice”. I’m sure that everyone remembers more than one moment where they were chastised for monopolizing the computer (back in the dark ages when computers were more of a rarity), or even for taking two cookies instead of one. In school and in University, we learn that psychologists have found that often learn best in groups. As a social species, interacting with each other and sharing information (in both the role of student and the role of teacher) is a way that knowledge spreads and is exposed to others. As technology develops, we do more and more of this “sharing” on the internet. We store our knowledge in technological devices and ease the load on our working memory in order to acquire MORE information. Just as Gee mentioned in the context of video games, we use quick menus to recall our mission in a game, we use  meters to monitor our health and we even use internet forums or wiki’s to help us in difficult parts of a game.
I’m playing Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood for class and I’m not ashamed to say that when I get stuck and find myself  running around in circles in search of my target (that is supposedly right below me according to my map), I jump on the AC:B wiki and search for the help of others. Sometimes I feel like it’s cheating– shouldn’t I be figuring this out for myself? Then I stop and realize that the resource wouldn’t be posted by other gamers if they didn’t want it to be used– to be learnt from and passed on to others.
I can’t help but draw a parallels with how my school’s perception of group work transitioned from an inexcusable taboo in middle school to a requirement in High school. Group work was no longer “cheating“, it was a method for achieving a greater quality of work. Maybe it was thought (in my school anyway) that we needed to develop independent though before we could be productive group members– who knows (there’s probably some validity in that), but if it is a cognitive development issue, then why are adults in the government attempting to suppress sharing? Now I bet you are all thinking I’m about to get up on my soapbox and rant and rave about SOPA and PIPA and ACTA etc etc– and I promise I’ll try not to. I’m just completely baffled by WHY excessive censorship would be seen as okay (if you have no idea what I am talking about then check this link: http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2012/01/23/if-you-thought-sopa-was-bad-just-wait-until-you-meet-acta/ ). I would be lost at times without Wikipedia, which under ACTA could be taken down and blocked without formal explanation. Many other sites could be removed as well– My Assassin’s Creed forum is probably among these (and yes, I’m trying not to worry think about how that would effect my progress in the game)

As technology is moving forward we share with each other more via the internet, we learn more from these other resources and we can be kept up to date with events worldwide. The cliff notes version of this post being: sharing is caring and it sharing promotes learning.

Just to be clear, I’m not denying that there are copyright issues with downloading illegal music or games, but ACTA seems to take it to a new level– a point on which many tech companies agree (Google, Wikipedia, Facebook, etc). Maybe it is just as simple as reminding ourselves and the government of those lessons our parents taught us oh so many years ago: “Sharing is caring. You might even make a friend and learn something new.”

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