Information Overload

Photo by Will Lion

We live in a world where knowledge is at our fingertips. If you have a question – ask Google. What did we do before Google? For me, as a child in the 1950′s and 60′s, my teacher was my ‘Google’. It was the teacher who had the knowledge and we went to school to learn from them. My access to knowledge at home was limited to a very cheap children’s encyclopaedia, which soon became out of date.

The role of teachers today needs to change – they are no longer the ‘wise guardians of knowledge’. In the world we live in, information is easily accessible through a myriad of technological devices.

The following Infographic shows what happens on the web every 60 seconds!

60 Seconds - Things That Happen On Internet Every Sixty Seconds
Infographic by- Shanghai Web Designers

 Anthony Chivetta, a High School Student in Missouri, is credited with saying’

The need to know the capital of Florida died when my phone learned the answer. The students of tomorrow need to be able to think creatively; they will need to learn on their own, adapt to new challenges and innovate on-the-fly.”

Have you ever considered just how much ‘your phone knows’?

Teachers today have to be guides, showing children where the information they want can be found, but more importantly how they can navigate their way through the wealth of data out there to ensure relevance and accuracy.

It is time to rethink the role of the teacher in the classroom and this will inevitably make us re-think the role of learning.

In 1605, Sir Francis Bacon, the father of scientific thinking, outlined the ‘habits of mind’ needed in research:

  • Nimble & versatile to see relationships among things, in addition to subtle distinctions between them.
  • Inquisitive.
  • Patient enough to doubt and ask questions.
  • Fond of reflecting.
  • Slow to assert and ready to consider multiple points of view.
  • Careful to support their points of view and to formulate an argument with reasons and evidence.
  • A slave neither to passing trends nor to established traditions but capable of judging  the credibility of sources and making independent judgements about information.
  • Alert to all deception.

Do you think that these ‘habits of mind’ are as essential in 2012 as they were in 1605? What do you believe are the important skills needed to develop critical thinking in 21st Century learners?

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6 responses to “Information Overload”

  1. Steve Westgarth says :

    In my view the human race has been “Learning” for millions of years. We are equipped to adapt to new ways of processing information – the information age might be redefining the role of the teacher but in my view this is all just part of evolution.

    • Mike says :

      Thanks for your comments Steve.
      Throughout history we have used the latest technology to learn more. In the past this was often controlled by ‘educators’ and often only available to a minority. What the Internet does is allow everyone access to a wealth of information. Our biggest problem is finding the information we really need.

      • Steve Westgarth says :

        has that not always been our problem?

        Throughout history we have arguably not had enough information because we haven’t had the means to find it. We therefore relied on teachers who were perceived as being knowledgable.

        In today’s society the problem is reversed in that we have to much information and it is therefore difficult to make sense of it.

        Could it be argued that helping students make sense of, and filter information, is now the teachers role?

  2. Pauline Barnes says :

    I couldn’t agree more. Today we have easy access to more information than ever before, but people are not getting any smarter. Learning isn’t just about accessing and assimilating facts and figures, it’s about making decisions on how and in what context to use that information, being able to construct an informed argument, and also about thinking creatively. In an interview on R2 yesterday, the poet Roger Mc’Gough was discussing the power of the imagination and how that aspect of learning currently seems to be being neglected.

    • Mike says :

      Well said Pauline.
      Our school system is dominated by testing and the easiest things to test are facts and figures. The problem is that this sort of ‘knowledge’ while it might help you pass a test, won’t help you out there in the real world.
      Have you ever listened to Sir Ken Robinson talking about how schools are killing creativity? If not it’s well worth watching the 20 minute video which can be found at

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