Thursday, March 29, 2012

Information is not Education

We live in an age of information in which we can find out about absolutely anything. We can even find out about national secrets through Wikileaks,and even God is only a mouse click away, as one of my ecclesiastical colleagues once remarked. We can find out when high tide is in Sydney, Australia or what time Al's French Fries closes on a Saturday night. We can find out what grades we need to get this semester to achieve a B average and we can find out if Inter-Milan beat Juventus. We can download virtually any type of information and upload anything to a cloud. But what do we need to do with the information to turn it into a learning experience?

It probably depends on how we see the process of  learning. One way of looking at it is in terms of changing what we know, the way we think, believe or physically do things. Typically known as cognitive, affective and psychomotor learning this implies that in order to learn something some change needs to take place. If the information we are experiencing changes us in any one of more of these ways we can say we are learning. The learning can be either intentional or unintentional, it can be temporary or permanent and it can be for good or evil.

As teachers we must be astutely aware of the role of informational technology on the lives of the students we work with. We must take care not to fool ourselves into believing that students are learning just by accessing information, or, in fact, that they are learning what we intend them to learn. The superficiality of simply experiencing information through a piece of technology should not be confused with the process of learning. We made this mistake in the middle part of the last century when "hands-on learning" was all the rage . It took us several years to realise that "hands-on learning" was quite ineffective until it was extended to include "minds-on learning" to get the "hands-on, minds-on learning" that we still advocate for in elementary math and science education today. 

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