The modern world has an increasing ability to make information accessible to people from all walks of life. Each technological advancement, in some way or another, leads to a greater access to information for people as a whole. Is this really a good thing for us to come up against? Or is it something that could turn out to be a perilous problem for all who are involved?
Brian Solis: Relevancy
We each face many different things in our lives as we come against new experiences each and every day. The way that we react to these experiences is what defines who we truly are. All too often in our interactions with others we get caught up with what we posses instead of what we truly are. It has been ever so popular to possess a nice car, large house, or best fit clothes. As we grow into the future, we find that these possessions still have great value, but the fastest growing valued possession is our knowledge. This concept of possessing knowledge does not extend to possessing just any knowledge, but knowledge that has relevance. Brian Solis mentioned in his talk at The Ed Sessions in November 2015, “when you become more informed, you become more empowered, and when you become more empowered, you become more demanding.” Brian Solis also said that one of the most important things for us to have valuable encounters with information is to ensure relevancy. Our ability to sort through information in an information-overloaded world can very well determine our ability to have success through both the good and bad experiences.
How We Sort Through Information
Do we spend too much time sorting through information that is either invalid or not useful to help us attain our goals? It seems as though when information was first starting to be written down on paper, people had great trust that what they were reading had truth and validity. The English language had more standardization as the commoner had greater access to information through newly printed texts. As people began to have this greater access to information, they initially had great trust that what they were reading was fact without question. It seems as though the most common occurrence of people that accept information without question comes to those who believe in sacred texts like the Bible or the Koran. The greater progression that has come technologically, the more that information has become readily available to the general populous. We see that here in the U.S. that information is more readily available at our fingertips than for those in a 3rd world country where technology lags far behind. Countries in Africa have made advances to allow for the freedom of information within their boundaries. People in these countries probably don’t have as hard of a time trusting the information that they encounter as do the people in industrialized societies because of the fact of coming in contact with less information collectively.
Information in the 20th Century
As we progressed through the 20th century, information became ever more readily available as more information was published through books and became available on the radio and television. Then, in the late 20th century, the invention of the internet exploded the availability of information for the American society as a whole. Instead of having to go to the local library to find a book that contains the desired information, we could sit at home on our personal computer and have access to virtually all of the other available information in the world. Many who come across this article use a search engine with various key words to direct them to a trusted source. The search has evolved from a very physical search to a virtual search. With the greater availability of information from a variety of sources, the frequency of scams and fraudulent actions with valuable information has become ever so common. The more common that these happen, the more of a distrust that we grow towards information, and the more information that we come in contact with, the better that we have to be at sorting through it.
The Effect of Distrust of Information on the Future Generations
If the trend of the past has been to have an ever-growing distrust of the information that we come in contact with, what is likely to happen to the generations that come after us? I think that we all hope that just as we have been able to adapt to grow a filter to hopefully ensure that only valuable information is stored in our brains, those who come after us will likewise be able to do the same. Is there a point where people won’t have the capacity to continue to sort through scams and fraudulent activity? No one may be able to tell for sure until we reach the future. In foresight, it is tough to see the acceleration of the availability of information slowing down anytime soon. It should be a great blessing to be able to have so much readily available at our fingertips. However, sadly, with ever good thing that this world has to offer, there are bad things that come right along with them. Information falls into this category just like anything else. Alcohol can be used to cleanse wounds and power racing vehicles, but it can also be used improperly and result in drunk driving and eventual deaths on the road.
Is the Increasing Availability of Information a Curse or a Blessing?
Education, or the art learning, is the ability to turn information into knowledge, and apply that knowledge into wisdom. If we each face a huge overload of information, do students face a continual fight with distrust for the information that they come in contact with? A student may be assigned to write a research paper on a current political issue, but come across many things that are stated as fact that are merely opinion or lack any truth at all. They may spend hours sorting through all of the jibber jabber to find the facts behind the information, and may find that the true facts are either hidden or lack existence. To prevent students from using faulty information or plagiarizing information available on the internet, many teachers require their students to write their papers in MLA format. In this format, students must clearly identify when they are using quotations, and also must include a proper means of sourcing the information that they are using. Much of the time used in writing papers comes back to their ability to sort through information on the internet. Many students face a situation in their educational pursuits where the teachers merely give their students a topic to research on the internet because they don’t include a textbook in their class. This can be very taxing as students have to spend a great deal of time rummaging through information on the internet to find valid information to give the needed knowledge for the class. This information often doesn’t sink in or have longevity because students don’t know if they can trust what they are reading as there are so many conflicting viewpoints out there. We each have an imbedded fear within us where we don’t want to have to do something more than once if we don’t have to. Learning often occurs the very best and has the most longevity when a little pain is involved. This pain often doesn’t make for a really enjoyable experience for those involved. If we are going to go through the pain of learning a new principle, shouldn’t the things that we learn have value and have many applications in life? They should, but as we sort through information, and go through some of the pain of learning, we don’t want to waste our effort, sacrifice, or pain on things that are false or merely opinionated. This lack of trust causes a block in our ability to learn properly. We want our schools to improve, and test scores to rise, and we put great focus on improving programs to help students reach new heights, but we seemingly lack the results that we desire. We have seen recently that the average SAT scores in Idaho have dropped slightly. Yes, students may be becoming more are more relaxed in their educational endeavors, but for some reason, there is far more behind this problem than a need for a change in a program, or even a change in the desire of students for their education. Honestly and truly, students may be reaching the point of information overload where they are exhausting more of their resources on sorting through information than ever before.
Are the Challenges with an Overload of Information Preventable?
Referring back to the talk that Brian Solis gave at The Ed Sessions in November of 2015, he referred to relevance on the scope of competition. If we aren’t persistent in finding that which is relevant, then we will soon find disruption given to us by someone else. Brian Solis hit this right on the head. To further the discussion on preventing the information overload that looms on the horizon for us and those who are to come after us—is the key for success in this area to instill a better internal filter in the minds of young people? Or is the key to success to limit the amount of opinionated information and information with malintent from making contact with them? It doesn’t seem plausible for us to do the latter, but we also can’t force a filter into anyone’s mind. The solution to this problem doesn’t seem like it will come through merely focusing on one or the other, but more likely through a combination of both together. A further question on this topic, is it right, or even possible for students to receive information that is free of opinion? Do students grow an essential life skill during their educational pursuits with their ability to sort through information? However, valuable of the development of the skill to sort through information, does it come at the expense of kids’ ability to properly learn the material? These are all questions that deserve consideration when discussing this topic. Max Weber, in his pursuit to have an objective viewpoint on sociology (rather than a subjective one), thought that it was important for sociologists to be value-free. One of the purposes of a sociologist is to educate society about social interaction and society as a whole. If Max Weber thought that this was possible, then shouldn’t it be a worth-while pursuit in the education of our children today? On the other hand, if information is left unrestrained, will a similar effect take place as what happens in a market economy with the flow of goods, services, and money? Will the most valuable information become the most readily available, and have the most credibility naturally as we each sort through information, or will the driving force of falsehood overcome all credibility? This is a problem that looms before us, and has started to have an effect on society as a whole in the recent past. Concerns that have been brought forward above aren’t to be left idle to be treated on their own accord. There are actions that are to be done to help students cope with an overload of information, and The Ed Sessions hopes to be able to lead the pursuit in the hopes for students to be able to receive their education more efficiently and effectively, especially in the state of Idaho. Now that we understand what is placed before us, we can make a difference by spreading the word, and start acting out in ways that will bring desired improvement. We invite you to share the The Ed Sessions with your friends so they can be informed, and join with us to have the opportunity to make a difference.