Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Pedagogy of Information Abudance

David Warlick's lecture was divine, pinpointing areas of outdated thought that mar the "new information landscape" like ruinous, empty factories. My classmates have written about some of them: Racheal sketched a compelling appeal for Wikipedia and more, while Elizabeth ran through pros and cons of the "Web 2.0 Roulette." So I'll take a different route--the path less traveled on.

Warlick asked, "Information is no longer scarce... what then are the pedagogies of information abundance?" The pedagogies of information abundance seem to circle around internet-hunts, updated MLA/APA/Chicago handbooks, and online databases condemning the wider world web of wandering. Online corkboards replace on-the-wall smartboards, side-by-side with their whiteboard and blackboard predecessors. And still our students are bored. And still we wonder why.

So often, students are more tech-savvy then their teachers. We've all seen it: the professor calling on her class to "fix the dratted thing" or wasting time to phone IT. Meanwhile, we fiddle on our phones--smartphones, sometimes--clicking and texting tandems about the smartboard. We see no power in her point; when the power goes off-line, the class goes off-topic; when the room is electric, the student's are not.

But I'm ranting; technological incorporation can be great, when it works.

And when it's done right.

Today more than ever, our students need to be trained in differentiating between facts and opinions, between bias and balance, between that which is stated and that which is the state. So often, we simply instruct our students to find content, filling their papers with (we hope) reason resources. But rarely do we show them how to, say, google the author of the article and find his post at Harvard, or her dissertation on stem cell usage in Nigeria. Rarely do we instruct them in the art of analyzing thesis, antithesis, and synthesis as they are presented in a wide context of social, political, historical, cultural, and even psycho-somatic perspectives. Rarely are they taught to think, and question their thinking.

So often, we teach our students how to be taught--how to be content repositories--rather than how to teach themselves. All know how to browse the internet for information. Most know how to reproduce information. Many know how to reformat information into coherent papers. But few know how to connect data in new and innovative ways, networking with the world at large to craft new and helpful insights, programs, or projects. Few know how to be creative and correct.

As Warlick stated, our students need to have the right kind of literacy--not school-oriented, but life-oriented. In my biased opinion, they need to have a philosopher's questioning perspective, always asking "how did we come to this conclusion? Is it possible? plausible? likely? And if followed to its natural end, will this lead to a liveable lifestyle?" Current literacy standard ask for a simple reproduction of information, not for a contextual critique of information necessary in our new information landscape.

So let's convince our students and ourselves of a new, thinking pedagogy of creative critique--networking, building, and questioning to be literate in this brave new world.


  1. I loved your statement with students searching for information on the internet and being given no direction towards differentiating between facts and opinions. I keep thinking back to my "research" papers, (If you could call them that) in high school. Teachers would give you a list of objectives that you had to have at least 3 books, and how ever many internet articles for your sources. The reason for the books was because teachers felt that information in books was more accurate that information found on the web. Instead of teaching us how to sift through to find fact rather than opinion we were just told we had to use book sources as well. I love your approach to the video!

  2. I also love this. I think it's SO important to show kids how to find out whether a source is credible. Kids think "Oh, it looks like a news site, it's credible" or "Oh, this has a blingee picture on it, it's not credible" and while those may be good ways to get an intitial impression, you still need to take a deeper look. Moreso with the sites that look like news. I say that if you have a blingee on your site, that pretty much ruins your credibility. ha. But anyway, teaching them to research the source is absolutely necessary. Great post.