Currently the shelf life of general knowledge is approximately 5 years and the gap is narrowing by the day. Therefore, the days of the Encyclopedia Britannica being that one place where all knowledge is kept is of course gone. Now Wikipedia can give you some information that is current, but you need to keep tuning in to see the corrections, alterations and updates.
This asks the question about what is the point of acquiring knowledge at all if its going to become redundant after 5 years? Good question. There is no point. So, what to do then? Well, this is the ultimate question of education today – which is, should we focus more on learning styles or information gathering?
Having been a teacher for most of my life, I have always believed that the focus for any learning should be on ‘why’ rather than ‘what’. Even in the delivery of the history curriculum today, it is not so much about remembering historical facts, it’s more about patterns of change and asking the question of why, at that time, did these things happen and how can we implement those strategies today to understand our lives more now.
Researchers state now that the amount of available information in the world today on any topic is roughly doubling every 6 months. This is mind blowing when we think that only 30 years ago most of what we knew in a general sense had remained the same for over 300 years. Now we can feel confident that we could question anything out there and find some new updated information to turn anything upside down. So how does this affect the process in which we learn.
It is not that we learn by acquiring facts, I don’t think anyone will dispute that, it is more about questioning what the purpose of a fact was in the first place. How did we use facts to generate a learning situation? This is getting very scientific now, as science has its own rules for how things can be construed as facts. However, it is more about how we as humans decide what is a fact and what isn’t in our every day life, and how we learn from there.
As I grow older I find myself becoming increasingly instinctual, looking for the reasons why people do or say things as far more useful than seeing things from face value only.
I agree that is it important to have some solid ground around you when considering things as it gives you a framework or reference point in which to work from, but getting young learners to understand this is another thing again.
It seems that all young children understand that nothing is set in stone, yet somehow as we get older we want it to be more firm so we can make better decisions. The answer to the future of education may lie more in the fluid way a young learner thinks rather than the solid wisdom of an old sage. This will give us a better starting point to change the process of ‘what’ we think to ‘how’ we think.