When Cathy Davidson and Duke University gave free iPods to every member of the incoming freshman class in 2003, they didn’t expect the uproar that followed. Critics called it a waste: what educational value could a music player have for college kids? Yet by the end of the year, Duke students had found academic uses for the new devices in virtually every discipline. The iPod experiment proved to be a classic example of the power of disruption—a way of refocusing attention to illuminate unseen possibilities.
Using cutting-edge research on the brain, Davidson shows how the phenomenon of “attention blindness” shapes our lives, and how it has led to one of the greatest problems of our historical moment: although we blog, tweet, and text as if by instinct, far too many of us still toil in schools and workplaces designed for the last century, not the one we live in. To change this, we must ask ourselves critical questions: How can we redesign our schools to prepare our kids for the challenges they’ll face as adults? What will the workers and workplaces of the future look like? And how can we learn to adapt to life changes that seem almost too revolutionary to contemplate?
Davidson takes us on a tour of the future of work and education, introducing us to visionaries whose groundbreaking ideas will soon affect us all. Now You See It opens a window onto the possibilities of a world in which the rigid ideas of the twentieth century have been wiped away and replaced with the flowing, collaborative spirit built into the very design of the Internet.
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"Part of the appeal of Now You See It is that Davidson rightfully criticizes current compartmentalized, standardized systems of education and employment that don't accommodate differences in attention or thought processes. And many of her ideas are daring and pleasantly shocking--for instance, she describes a college course she taught, "Your Brain on the Internet," that didn't have a rigid set of outcomes, a class where students were given tools and opportunity to grow in any direction they wanted. But though parts of her book are fascinating and insightful (in the first few pages, she analyzes a Cymbalta ad to demonstrate how it directs viewers' attention away from dangerous side effects), other parts seem like castles built on air. She consistently shows the way the world could be while everything is working right, but she seems to have never experienced life in the trenches. For example, Davidson never considers how a course like "Your Brain on the Internet" would fly on a medium-sized or small campus populated with underachievers or, almost as bad, those who only care about what will get them a good job. Davidson also paints a happy picture of being able to work, to even attend business meetings, from home. Well, sure, cool, you could wear a bathrobe all day long, but any college instructor--especially any college instructor with a family--could tell you about the other edge to this sword.
In short, her descriptions of some of the problems are spot-on: education and employment are unreasonably compartmentalized. I wish I could similarly agree with her solutions."
Pamela (4 out of 5 stars)