Information: Too Much of a Good Thing?

  • Posted on: 21 March 2014
  • By: Tina McCoy

There's more information available through a handheld device than all the teachers you've ever known could convey if they taught 24/7 for the next 100 years. Did I make that up?  Yes, but honestly I think they would have to teach infinitely longer than 100 years. Information is everywhere, and it can be obtained quickly and easily.  The 'playing field' of education has changed, but most educators don't realize it. How many teachers do you know who still believe it is their job to simply pass on information to their students? The problem is, that's not what students need.  They can access an overabundance of information any time, any place. They need to learn what to do with the waves of information that crash around them every time they go online (something they do with incredible frequency). So what should be the role of educators given this monumental shift in society, and what does this mean for the education of our students?

First, in my opinion, the role of literacy will not be diminished due to advances in technology.  With information swirling around them, students must be prepared to take it in efficiently. The average mature reader is comfortable reading approximately 300 words per minute, while a typical recorded voice (set for optimal listening) is typically paced between 150 and 170 words per minute (Hattie and Yates, Visible Learning and the Science of How We Learn, 2014).  That means that reading is substantially more efficient for most people (and offers the added benefit of skipping around or skimming) than listening. In short - reading fluency is and will remain essential for our students despite advances in technology. 

Second, teachers need to shift their focus from teaching to learning. They need to teach their students how to think: how to 'structure information and do something with it' (D. Cabrera). According to Dr. Derek Cabrera, a renowned educator in the field of metacognition, teachers must help their students make distinctions, recognize and understand systems, see relationships, and take on different perspectives. They need to emphasize creativity, real world problem solving and independent thought.  Sounds great but unrealistic? There are ways to provide structure to students' thinking that are simple and can be used at all ages - preschool through graduate school.  Students with all types of disabilities can also benefit from these strategies, which can help them become more independent, more apt to generalize skills, and more able to exercise self-determination.

If you would like to find out more about metacognitive strategies that should be used to shift the focus of education and help our students thrive in a future that we cannot foresee, watch this Tedx Talk ( on metacognition.  It's 16 minutes long, and well worth the time.  Grab a cup of coffee and see how some simple, overarching strategies can begin to change the way we see the roles of teachers.  You'll be inspired, and glad you watched! 

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