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November 28, 2010

Reading through the blog posting from the Innovative Educator, I came across the following (albeit somewhat lengthy) chuck of text that I found particularly interesting: “Some teachers I speak with think they have a case against using technology in education after they explain that if students have access to all this information they’ll be able to cheat on tests and other assessments. I tell these teachers that in a “Whole New Mind World” we need to begin engaging in “know where” (to find it) rather then “know what” (the answer is) teaching…meaning it is more important to teach students how to access any information rather than memorize it. Ideally they’ll do something with the information that is more meaningful and authentic then placing answers in a test booklet.”

On one hand, I completely agree with the idea: I think that it’s very important that we teach students how easy it really is to find the information that is out there. We have such an enormous array of information at our fingertips that it would be a shame if we did not accurately and comprehensively teach students how to find it, and (more importantly) how to determine if the information that they find is good, quality information. Of course, this is a great way to integrate technology into the classroom, just as it’s a great way to foster an innovative mindset.

On the other hand, I think it’s important student build a traditional “knowledge-base” if you will. That is, I think that students need to know how to build from the ground up; that they are able to create knowledge for themselves rather than simply find it, or assume that it’s out there waiting for them to search for it. If students were to simply go through school knowing that they can find the information they need somewhere, I think that they would be missing out on one of the fundamental aspects of school. I’m not saying that they should simply memorize facts and take tests, but they need to take ownership of their own learning: they need to be able to synthesize information, not just assume that they can find someone else’s synthesis of that information.

The Innovative educator emphasizes that educators need to “begin engaging in “know where” (to find it) rather then “know what” (the answer is) teaching” – I disagree with this statement. I think that we need to do both. I know that this was not the intention, but to take it to the extreme, such a course could build extreme reliance on technology to a point that it would become a crutch rather than a method of enhancement.

The idea itself is not new – educators have been working for years to try to get students to try and find answers for themselves (in books, through interviews, by investigation) rather than simply asking a question and expecting a straight answer. Unfortunately (in my mind) technology has antiquated these methods of finding information, and has placed it (again) right at our fingertips – in essence, the world has grown lazier. Does this mean that we need to adapt to the process? Do we need to embrace the laziness that technology has allowed for? Who are we to assume that once the students find the information they need, that they will do “ something with the information that is more meaningful and authentic”, rather than just moving on?

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