iPads, Facebook, smartphone, info overload
Learning to harness the barrage of information we are confronted with on a daily basis is the focus of a book by a local scientist.
Luc Beaudoin, of Pitt Meadows, is an adjunct professor of education at SFU, specializing in cognitive science.
He once wrote a 40-page paper at the request of the late Steve Jobs, the Apple Inc. founder, with information based on cognitive science and productivity.
“I had a lot of ideas, so I shared those ideas.”
Features similar to the ones he suggested, such as a global mute button, and features to tag information as important and to create flashcards are now trademark capabilities in Apple products.
In addition to his role as an educator, Beaudoin has been a software designer and an entrepreneur. He has helped launch billion- dollar high-tech companies including Abatis Systems Corp. and Tundra Semiconductor.
“I’m not just a scholar who has been in the ivory tower his whole life.”
His new book, Cognitive Productivity, has been released on Leanpub, which is a Vancouver-based online bookstore. It will be available as an E-book on Amazon in the fall.
Enlightened by what his own varied career path has taught him, Beaudoin cites examples of how information overload and learner-unfriendly technology are combining to break down our cognitive productivity.
“Merely skimming and archiving information, which most of us do to try to stay afloat on our sea of information, stymies cognitive productivity,” said Beaudoin.
“There’s not enough active reading, annotating and harvesting of information gems, which we must then practise recognizing and using if we’re to become expert with the knowledge.”
It’s believed to be the first research-based book to explain how marrying learning strategies that underlie cognitive science with learner-friendly technology can make us more cognitively productive.
Cognitive science is a field that encompasses linguistics, neuroscience, philosophy, psychology and even artificial intelligence.
“Technology itself is not designed by people who thing about how we learn,” explained Beaudoin.
A simple Google search offers a wealth of information, but we can be constrained by both time and our own biological limitations – “We can’t just ready something and then know it.
“So technology is not as useful as it could be, or should be.”
Information is available. Contemporary people know more about their hobbies than ever before, and if someone in their family contracts a form of cancer, they can quickly get data about it.
“You’ve got to know about that cancer, and suddenly you’re a researcher.”
Beaudoin’s book offers some heavy lifting for those who want to read it, but he believes it is accessible to everyone.
“You need to be a cognitive scientist to come up with what I’ve written.
“You don’t need to be a cognitive scientist to appreciate it,” he said.
The book delves into topics like comprehension, the “illusions of relevance,” and some learning skills that Beaudoin believes can make our lives better.
“The middle part has science that not everyone will want to read,” he said.
“But the first part talks about the great opportunity we face, having all this knowledge accessible to us.”
“On the scale of humanity this is really new, and people haven’t adapted their ways,” he said.
“We’ve got lots of food, but do people eat the right things?”
Beaudoin said he has written a “productivity book,” which will be most relevant to business and professional people.
“It’s targeted at people who work with knowledge, and that’s a huge number of people now – it’s a knowledge economy.”
“It’s a very positive book.”