The MySchoolWorx Community Blog

Can we keep up with the explosion of knowledge and information?

Consider the lowly encyclopedia. If you’re from my generation, you remember hard copy encyclopedias as a primary source of information for fact-finding and writing school papers.  I can still recall many a late night poring through the heavy hard-bound texts of the library during my college years.  Back in those days, we saw information perhaps a bit more finite than we now do.  Sure, we knew that the quality, accuracy and timeliness of the information we gathered depended largely on the edition/when the encyclopedia was published. And as aggregators of information, encyclopedias worked very well for quite some time, until a whole new era emerged. The Internet and rapidly advancing technologies have ushered in a whole new knowledge and information age that has rendered the publication of hard copy encyclopedias obsolete. Today’s online encyclopedias are updated by the second, if not the minute.

Of course it’s not just the technology that is available to deliver the information that makes this possible, but the information itself that is changing and growing so rapidly, actually exponentially. The more we know, the faster we know more. To wit: Scientists estimate that knowledge doubled approximately every century until the 1900’s. Knowledge was doubling every 25 years by the end of World War II, they contend, and today knowledge growth is so huge it is gauged not as one lump sum of information, but by multiple types, from clinical knowledge to nanotechnology knowledge and yes, good old fashioned human knowledge.  Experts tell us human knowledge is now doubling every 13 months.  And scientists at IBM predict the Internet will soon lead to the doubling of knowledge every 12 hours. It’s all mind boggling, and fascinating at the same time. We live in a time of stunning discovery (new planets?) and unprecedented innovation (robots) changing our future and surely the future of education.

As K-12 educators, we work hard to impart the critical basics, while staying on top of what’s new. One can’t help but wonder how much “the basics” will change as knowledge leaps forward. For example, there was a time not too far in our past when teaching children how to write in cursive was a critical basic.  Depending on where you live, there is still debate on teaching “penmanship” beyond the mastery of printing. But today, it’s really all about mastering the keypad.   Back to the basic of teaching how to research, today’s students need to be taught how to search online for accurate sources of information, not just performing random Google searches that may turn up thousands of “answers”, few of which may be factual.

What do you think?

What critical basics do you see rapidly falling by the wayside to make room for new basics?  Are we too quick to eliminate teaching methods? What new critical basics do you see emerging? Looking forward to hearing from you…

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