Information Abundance and Teaching

I received an e-mail from a friend today, and I’d thought I’d share some of it:

Dave said that he would like to talk to “us” about training of computer/technical information.  Apparantly they are getting lots of enquiries about how to better teach IT-like skills…. he said (and, I swear I am not saying this just for Jesse):  “….people are contacting me asking things like ‘how can I teach kids who know more than I know? and, what am I supposed to teach them when they can just look up any answer at any time?  how can I teach in an age of information abundance?”  [ok, maybe I added that last one…..].

The “us” referred to is our Psychological Scholarship Innovations group – we look into teaching and learning from an evidence based perspective (kind of some of the stuff I write about).

At the risk of stating the obvious – we are in the age of information abundance. If we insist of maintaining our place as the expert on something that we just teach, and are not truly an expert on, we will constantly be upstaged by those we teach. Especially if they are taking a class in something that they are interested in. If there is an intrinsic motivation to learn about something, they will probably have already looked into the area, and sometimes this is to some depth.

When I am teaching adults, there are some classes where I would defy anyone to challenge what I am teaching. There are other classes that I am assigned to teach, and I have to go out and do some work in preparation of what I want to cover – because I’m not really an expert. I am a good teacher, and I have a strong background in psychology, but that doesn’t make me an expert across the entire area.

when the information is available, literally all around us, why do teachers resist asking the students to contribute? Why is the conversation still, almost always, one way? I was reading some stats about high school classes, and it was saying that something like 95% of the dialogue (including questions) comes from the teacher. If you are in a traditional university lecture, the numbers have got to be even higher. Learners today think this is what makes good learning. No matter what we say to the contrary (as a community), our actions are drowning it out.

At a recent meeting, someone said to me that as learner centric classes become the norm – become the norm. This statement is in response to having a single core class with a learner centric philosophy, and a couple of optional modules doing the same. Out of about 15 mandatory classes, and 20 optional module offered in our department, I’m not sure how three or four is beginning to represent the norm.

The internet is here to stay. Access is becoming ubiquitous. Information is freely available.

I don’t hear anyone arguing anything different, so when are teachers going to stop spouting and start curating?