Christian Long

David Merrill: Siftables – The Smart Blocks

In TED Talks on April 20, 2010 at 9:58 pm

Reflection by DANIEL L.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

David Merrill:  Siftables – The Smart Blocks

As a kid I remember the toy blocks that had letters on them and I had to make words out of those blocks.

By doing that I was actually learning how to think and solve problems by understanding and manipulating spatial relationships. Spacial Reasoning is what helps us understand the world around us. Now I was about 3 or 4 years old when playing with these toy blocks and by trying to put words together I was really learning how to spell and it really helped me think for myself.

A man by the name of David Merrill was trying to think of something that would upgrade the little toy blocks that everyone used as a kid. His idea was called a Siftable, which is an interactive computer the size of a cookie:

“They’re able to be moved around by hand, they can sense each other, they can sense their motion, and they have a screen and a wireless radio. Most importantly, they’re physical, so like the blocks, you can move them just by reaching out and grasping. And Siftables are an example of a new ecosystem of tools for manipulating digital information.”

I feel like this is a pretty cool technology and I feel that it will enhance education and learning.

One thing I disagree with though is the whole aspect of new technology and maybe some part of it is affecting the way we as people think for ourselves. Like the GPS system. Back then you really had to learn your way around and you had to think of how to get to places. Now a days you just type the location and destination into the GPS system and it will tell you where to go. There is no thought process in that.

Now I know the Siftables are to help learning, but my point is, technology as a whole is making humanity dumber. The Calculator for example, all you have to do is type in the numbers and the equation and the calculator will give you the answer. Also there are all these calcluators that have all these programs and equations already programed in so now the calculator literally does everything. So does that effect learning? I am not saying it does, but think about it. People no longer have to work out the problems themselves and challenge their minds because of calculators.

So my point in this whole thing is are we becoming dumber because of technology?

Some technology is good though like the siftables, but things like the GPS system, Calculators, and television all take away from people thinking on their own. The television takes away from reading, and reading is good for the brain. So maybe all of this technology isn’t the best thing for humanity.


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