Welcome to Laurie Goodman's blog. I use this space to share news and opinions about education and schools in Ridgewood, the state of New Jersey and the nation, in addition to other issues I'm personally interested in. I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, questions or opinions, too, by posting comments on any blog entry. Please observe basic courtesy -- keep your comments focused on issues, no personal attacks or bullying, please. Contact me directly at: lauriegood@mac.com

Monday, May 25, 2009

Teaching and learning and the information glut

Two interesting things I read today, and I'm pretty sure they're related:

First, a letter to the editor in today's NY Times, said: "Students have enormous access to information on every subject under the sun. Teaching, when I first began 40 years ago, was mostly about giving students information they needed to understand what I was teaching. Today, they have gluts of information. What they don’t have is a capacity to understand it all, analyze it, evaluate it and make it operative in their lives.

The challenge for all of us in education is to accept the fact that we do not control access to information, but we do control the central task of turning information into real learning. That challenge is made more urgent by the fact that long before these students go to college, they have already gained access to and acquired more information than any previous generation. And the future is likely to see that information stream go deeper earlier.

Learning how to learn is as urgent a task as what we learn."

I agree with the writer...and I wonder how much our current and future teachers are adjusting their perspective and approach. Surely, the old "tried and true" can't simply apply to today's reality of increased access to information. Certainly, how we define "learning" has got to be different in a world where our students can access the Encyclopedia Britannica from their cell phones while they contemplate a new flower alongside a trail or pass a historical marker going 50 miles per hour. Critical thinking, learning how to think and learn, and learning where to find the appropriate information or tool (or mathematical formula) must be priorities.

The second thing that struck me today, as I was browsing audiobooks online -- you can actually get Cliff's Notes as audiobooks! I was shocked! Now the shortcut has a shortcut! What's the difference between working through the difficult prose of The Scarlet Letter and listening to the Cliff's Notes version? I'm not sure, but they are not interhangeable! Clearly we have to work out new methods of learning and using information. If I just need to refresh my memory on a plot point, Google or Cliff's Notes can satisfy in a flash.

Listening to the Cliff's Notes is tempting...sort of like the exercise machines on TV -- the Ab Blaster or whatever. They LOOK like real exercises, where the machine does all the work, making "results" easier and faster. But we know how effective those machines are, don't we?

We definitely have our work cut out for us, as the education paradigm shifts. Of course, the first step is recognizing the shift.

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