Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Where do the facts belong - In the head or in the clouds? (#change11)

This debate between content and learning seems, to me, to be a little superfluous. Does anyone really think one can happen without the other?

The content of our education systems have come about via the learning of others before us. And even the highest of higher order thinking requires the collection, ordering and synthesis of basic empirical facts.

Having said that, the reality is the human brain as a repository of facts is losing its value. The ability to remember and recall facts is not as valuable in our society any more. It is far cheaper, in both money and time, to Google it than it is to sit through a lecture.

An analogy ..... If two people want to have an argument about appeasement prior to the second world war, while they are sitting at a bar, then a ready made store of facts in the brain will be of great use. Now give those two people smartphones and internet connection, suddenly they are able to use facts beyond their own memory to argue their respective positions. Their repertoire of facts has exploded but has their ability to synthesise the knowledge improved? Probably not. What would improve the intellectual outcome of the debate? Further lessons on the facts of appeasement? Probably the least likely. Lessons on how best to find facts on the internet? Lessons on higher order thinking? Rhetoric?

From the analogy above I hope it shows that the value of the facts themselves is not as great as the value of collection, ordering and synthesis of those said facts. And I also hope it shows that it is not a question of the necessity of facts, its a question of where they need to be - in the head or in the clouds.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Allan, this is an interesting thought in this important debate. Knowledge is important, you are right. Having facts at hand (or brains) is very useful. One could not do a internet search without knowledge, because one needs knowledge to ask the right questions. Having a debate however with only access to your own knowledge without backing of internet to provide facts and figures is a poor debate. Most debates suffer from poor facts and figures just because the partners only trust their own believes and prejudices. (in the old days we used to look it up in a dictionary, or ask an expert in the family)
    So in my opinion knowledge is necessary, and the skill to use internet is very important.