Just look it up

You might say technology and this whole interweb thing is connecting the world. Sounds good, right? But I know I haven’t actually stopped to think about how far we’ve come.

Eric Schmidt, the chairman and CEO of Google, was on Charlie Rose the other day and he said a couple of interesting things about how the world has changed. Just a few decades ago, communication was hard. Maybe you sent a telegram or a letter. Today, you can communicate virtually with almost anyone in the world, anytime.

It was also pretty tough to find information way back when. Hell, it was hard to find information while I was in college with that damn periodical index. I still can’t fathom how I survived as a newspaper reporter without the Internet. I must have talked to people. Eke. Anyway, his point was that today, you can find almost any piece of information in seconds—an amazing feat for humanity in such a short period of time.

Another question he posed was How does having all the information available to you change your education? In other words, if I don’t have to learn the elements on the periodic table, what does that mean? Looks like memorization is out, and learning how to search is in. I’ve noticed it in the students I work with. The tests I think should be easy for them (pure memorization), they find increasingly challenging. Learning how to search correctly by pinpointing the best keywords is today’s challenge. And that was a tough skill even combing through the volumes of the periodical index.

Still, isn’t there a core knowledge that needs to be absorbed to have at the ready? Like multiplication tables and state capitals? Yes, the information is available at your fingertips. Does that mean students now won’t learn the names of the planets? Or what a planet is? Or…anything because they can just look it up? Huh. Maybe this interweb thing is more sinister than I thought.

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3 thoughts on “Just look it up

  1. The more threatening consequence of the Internet is the ubiquitous social networking among our young (or not-so-young for that matter) is losing the capability to be alone, as argued by Wm Deresiewicz in his recent article ‘The End of Solitude’. Maybe you are aware of it already since you work among young people.

  2. So true–and so sad. Thanks for mentioning the article; I’ll have to check it out. Along those same lines, Schmidt also mentioned his concern about how the interruptiveness of life now for these kids (texting, IMing, etc.) might be diminishing their cognitive skills and their ability to learn and read more deeply. He added that he still feels the best way to learn is by reading a book, which was nice to hear.

  3. I’ve just written a post on the article and have the link to it, plus an interview with WD. I’ve entitled my post “No Texting for Lent and The End of Solitude” because just a few days ago, some Catholic Bishops have callled for a ‘High Tech Fast’ for Lent. It’s certainly a timely appeal I think.

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