25 May 2005

The New Informational Literacy

The Jenius reads and absorbs, with most of what He reads simply sticking to some neuron or the other, waiting for the right moment to emerge. Ever so often, something leaps off the screen (or page) and merits immediate attention:

Case in point, from the very good Creative Generalist blog, posted May 21st, 2005: (emphasis added)

"Laptops, wireless internet access and robust search engines have fundamentally altered the way in which information, criticism and expertise are engaged in the classroom. It's all making education and academia much more transparent, says NYU journalism instructor Jefferson Flanders, whether teachers like it or not.

Transparency holds out the promise of a deeper, richer and more democratic educational experience, but also an implied challenge to the traditional academic order.

The late Nobel Prize-winning economist Herbert Simon had it right: the verb “to know” used to mean having information stored in one’s memory – and it now means having access to that information and knowing how to use it. Maintaining the instructor’s authoritative “sage on the stage” role will grow more difficult. Instead, teachers at all levels will increasingly be called on to help students navigate this Alexandrine-like Web library and a new informational literacy will be needed, with an emphasis on judgment, synthesis, clear thinking, and what author Robert McHenry calls a “genial skepticism” about the veracity and quality of the information a mouse-click away."


With the determination of Noah building the Ark, We have to find ways to create that new informational literacy, to create a new form and style of teaching that embraces the expanse of knowledge rather than its containment. One that sees the pure virtue of exploration rather than the ugly vice of domination. A teaching style that enhances the individual and his or her uniqueness rather than continuing a system that seeks to impose conformity for its own sake, demanding obedience because it is convenient and settling for less because its vision cannot see more.

The second step in the new process is to see every social interaction as a possible teaching channel, understanding that most "teaching" occurs outside of schools and classrooms. Thus teaching is not "a specialty": it is a function, one that benefits from widespread development and use. It demands more of the individual and less of the system, a positive step as We know the system lost whatever effectiveness it may have had long ago.

And by placing the responsibility on the individual, We relegate the system--the government's flaccid, near-sighted and self-serving "educational" effort--to an increasingly-irrelevant background. It's not like We'd be pushing a mountain: all We're doing is nudging the system along the slimy path it has been creating for itself all these years.

The first step is to acknowledge that We must create this informational literacy as producers and consumers--prosumers, in Alvin Toffler's word. We have a stake both as developers of this informational literacy and users of it. To cede that responsibility to The Fools is... well, You can write the epitaph.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

2 comments:

Gabriel said...

(Takes out the scattergun and starts shooting half bakes, Depending on the response, Iĺl elaborate)

Bill Gate$, Michael Dell and many other poster childs of the PC revolution did not finish traditional education. Its unfortunate that most colleges are inflexible institutions filled with their own self importance (UPR comes to mind). They have forgotten their primary mission: To nurture tought. Entrepeneur oriented programs and more flexible degrees are good steps in the right direction. But we still have a way to go to prepare the knowledge worker of the future.
Its funny but what we need is not really new. We need an educational system similar to what we used to have several generations ago. We need to produce adaptable workers, people with the networking skills to know where to find whats needed for the task in front of them. Sounds to me like a Renaisance gentleman, right?
I believe one of the main reasons the web has become such an important repository for human tought is how it mimics human tought. The crazy connections one makes while googling facilitate EUREKA moments.
Learn to learn, adapt and network.

Gabriel said...

Ack! Next time I'll spell check!