In a digital world where knowledge is freed from two-dimensional constraints, information becomes miscellaneous, and the solution to the overabundance of information is more information as we organize and sort data for new insights and understandings. – David Weinberger
I remember when the worldwide web first became entangled in the field of education (roughly in the mid 1990s), there was a concern among educators about a thing called ‘information overload’. For a number of years many teachers wondered if their preeminent role as the sage on the stage would be usurped by the ubiquitous internet.
More to the point, everyone from curriculum developers, to school administrators, to classroom teachers, sought solutions as to how best align their practice with the exponential growth in knowledge readily available to their students.
As the 2010-11 school year begins, the same challenge exists for educational stakeholders. Our students today have at their fingertips (literally) – especially through mobile devices like ‘iPhones’ and ‘Blackberries’ – the entire repository of knowledge available to mankind. The challenge remains for educators to meet learners where they are.
Teachers must also design their instruction so students are not only better able to manage the flood of information, but are also able to ‘engage in disciplined inquiry to construct new knowledge in authentic contexts’, as researcher Cassandra Erkens states.
In other words, we want to set up our students for success in the rapidly changing world of the future.
When we consider preparing students for the demands of the future, another pedagogical researcher, J. L. Melsa, gets our attention when he says: “We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist, using technologies that haven’t yet been invented in order to solve problems we don’t even know we have.”
Wow! That’s saying a lot, isn’t it?
But, hasn’t that the way it’s always been for teachers?
Yes, the internet and emerging technologies have created a new dynamic in today’s classroom. But teachers of today, not unlike their predecessors over the last number of decades at least, have the age-old challenge of creating meaning in their classrooms.
What do I mean by that?
Well, as students file into our classrooms (digitally for some of us) in a couple of days (it’s Sept. 5 as I write this), they bring with them an air of excitement and anticipation. Whether they’re just starting their first day of Kindergarten, or beginning their final year of high school, in the forefront of their mind one question is clamoring for an answer.
That question is – “What kind of difference in my life will be made by this teacher standing before me?”
Leonard Quilty is a Teacher with the Center for Learning@Home in Okotoks, Alberta. He can be reached by e-mail at ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’.