Barriers in transfer
Merlin Donald, a cognitive psychologist studying biological and cultural evolution, argues that when major cultural shifts occur, such as has happened with language, literacy, and digital media (which Donald refers to as "external symbolic storage" (ESS)), humans experience diminishing ability in specific memory capacities including rote memorization and mental arithmetic [or figuring things out internally] ("Human Cognitive Evolution" 166). As digital technology has created a great cultural shift in how we communicate, it has also brought with it new challenges and concerns for learning. A closer examination of the effects of digital technology on memory unveils the need to redefine traditional notions of transfer in response to diminishing internal memory stores. While this line of thought heavily mirrors Plato's concerns in the Phaedrus, cognitive research has demonstrated that this effect is legitimate and holds real implications for the use of technology in learning (Sparrow, Liu, and Wegner). Technology also has been shown to create distractions to learning and compromises "vulnerable learning periods." While these new challenges exist and transform the ways in which we think about transfer and learning, they do not make transfer impossible. Instead, they transform it from a process of relying on and accessing one's internal knowledge domains, to a process of externally locating stored knowledge on digital domains. External retrieval can create interference with transfer by complicating the process and making, an already complex process, more difficult to achieve. To better illustrate these effects I will examine research on the google effect, multitasking, and vulnerable learning periods. After these barriers are well conceived, I will look at the pedagogical implications of technology, memory, and transfer while suggesting methods for learning in the digital age.