This is a post from my EdTech blog about learning in the digital era. The entry was for my edutainment course, and is something I think applies here.
The digital era is a time where teachers and learners have information readily available at their fingertips. Further, they are able to contribute to that data. They have mental tools that allow them to interpret the large amounts of data quickly and efficiently. At the same time, a native of the digital age (Prensky, 2005) knows how to sift through the chaff to find the specific piece of information that he or she needs.
The defining characteristics of the digital era can be distilled down into two words: information and accessibility. The vast quantity of information means that the content needed at any given time will probably be available, provided it is accessible. Fortunately, the new generation has learned the tools necessary to do just that.
John Seely Brown discussed how the rote method of teaching will not be acceptable in the coming years (Brown, 2009). That is, we have to change our teaching method to prepare people to get, not necessarily have, knowledge.
This is important. Prior to the digital age, the limited access to information broke society down into informational “haves” and “have nots.” That is, some people had the capacity and resources to commit a considerable amount of information to memory, and this explicit knowledge (Brown, 2002) gave them a competitive advantage in the classroom and on the job.
The digital age has reduced the competitive advantage of this explicit knowledge. The tacit knowledge (Brown, 2002) of how to find information quickly and efficiently has enabled the “have nots” to compete with the “haves.” More and more, the whole paradigm of the “haves” and “have nots” is being replaced by one of “finds” and “find nots.”
The information that was once limited to the few is now available to a large portion of the world’s population, and this availability is growing at a very rapid rate (Internet World Stats, 2010)
Since learners in the digital age rely on accessibility, the interfaces that we develop must enhance that accessibility (Johnson, 2008). If we want to create effective teaching tools, we need to develop interfaces that are user-friendly and efficient. The interface is the window into our content. If we have an easy, transparent interface, our learners will have a better, more focused view of that content.
Another important aspect of accessibility is the mutual sharing of information. Tim Berners-Lee characterizes this as “open data” (Berners-Lee, 2010) and promotes the publication of raw data in a useful format (Berners-Lee, 2009). The notion that there is more value in sharing information than in hoarding secrets is evidence of a cultural change that started with the invention of the World Wide Web. By promoting the importance of information sharing, we can turn our learners into teachers, and reach out to learners that we have never met — and perhaps never will!
The implications of the digital age can be summed up in a quote by Albert Einstein:
“Never memorize what you can look up in books.”
We could easily change this statement to read “Never memorize what you can look up on the web.” The time that was once dedicated to memorizing data can now be used to learn mechanisms to process, interpret, and apply that data.
Johnson, S. B. (2008). Keynote address. Handheld Learning Conference and Exhibition 2008. London, UK.
Internet World Stats, (2010). Retrieved from http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm
Brown, J. S. (2002). Learning in the digital age. The Internet and the university: 2001 Forum (pp. 66).
Brown, J.S. (2009). The entrepreneur and the cloud, Silicon Valley Leaders Forum: Changing Silicon Valley. Stanford, CA.
Berners-Lee, T. (2010), The year open data went worldwide. TED2010. Long Beach, CA.
Prensky, M. (2005). Listen to the natives. Educational Leadership, 63 (4), 8-13.
Berners-Lee, T. (2009), On the next web. TED2009. Long Beach, CA.