Will Smartphones replace our Memory?

After my post about Google and multiple choice tests, I was pointed to this article by David Pogue in the Scientific American Magazine, “Smartphones Mean You Will No Longer Have to Memorize Facts.”

I’ve been challenged on the thought that I’ve said that kids don’t need to memorize facts. (I never actually said that — just said that memorizing facts shouldn’t be how we base assessment.) I do love this quote from Pogue,

As society marches ever forward, we leave obsolete skills in our wake. That’s just part of progress. Why should we mourn the loss of memorization skills any more than we pine for hot type technology, Morse code abilities or a knack for operating elevators?

He also talks about the rise of calculators in math classrooms. I remember that paradigm shift distinctly. In junior high and high school, we were absolutely NOT allowed to have calculators. My dad had an early calculator (I believe it was a Texas Instruments and cost about $75) that I thought was awesome, so I’d use it at home — but never ever would’ve brought it to school. A couple of years ago, I had to buy my daughter a $100 graphing calculator. They never go to math class without it after about 7th grade. I will NOT be buying one for my son – he can get a $1.99 app for his iPad that does more than the $100 calculator.

Memorizing? Yes, we do need to have some basic facts in our brains. No argument. But should all our assessment be based on this? Should kids be taught to analyze and find facts, rather than recall? Can you learn facts (relevant facts) better by solving problems and creating projects than random, out-of-context multiple choice tests? You can answer for yourself.