Sunday, 15 April 2012

Gone Fishing

Give a man a fish and he won't starve for a day. 

Teach a man how to fish and he won't starve for his entire life. (Unknown)

I expect many of us as children at some point went fishing with a net, unsure of what we would catch but eagerly anticipating something. What we would do with that something was another matter (further than add it to our jam jar or whatever vessel we had taken with us that day), what use would our catch be? It was highly unlikely we would eat it, but then even if we caught something that was useful and edible, would we know it if we saw it? Did we ever think about a strategy for catching - the right section of the pond or stream, the right type of morsels to throw in to entice our anticipated catch to swim straight in to our nets? I certainly didn't until I was much older and went 'grown up fishing' with my Dad and not only learnt how to catch a fish, I realised I was able to teach my Dad something and that was how to clean, skin and gut a fish as well as how to cook it.

Sometimes I think that our students attempts at searching for information online is very much like early attempts at fishing. On the one hand information has become ever more readily available, but on the other there are is so much of it. Just as you can dip your net in the water and hope to catch something, using a search engine will bring up plentiful results, but is the best there is to find? Learning how to make good decisions, sound judgments and thinking critically doesn't necessarily come naturally to our Digital Natives. By partnering for real learning with our students it is important we don't just include more sophisticated search techniques but teach students 'the difference between search (where anything goes) and research (which has traditions and rules)' (Prensky 2010:103).    

Howard Rheingold goes as far as to say that the first thing we all need to know about information online is how to detect crap.

The answer to almost any question is available within seconds, courtesy of the invention that has altered how we discover knowledge — the search engine. Materializing answers from the air turns out to be the easy part — the part a machine can do. The real difficulty kicks in when you click down into your search results. At that point, it's up to you to sort the accurate bits from the misinfo, disinfo, spam, scams, urban legends, and hoaxes. "Crap detection," as Hemingway called it half a century ago, is more important than ever before, now that the automation of crapcasting has generated its own word: "spamming." (Rheingold 2011)

"Every man should have a built-in automatic crap detector operating inside him." 

The Seven Pillars of Information Literacy (Sconul 2011) guide us to consider the following: identify, scope, plan, gather, evaluate, manage and present

  • Be able to identify a personal need for information
  • Assess current knowledge and identify gaps
  • Construct strategies for locating information and data
  • Locate and access the information and data needed
  • Review the research process and compare and evaluate information and data
  • Organise information professionally and ethically
  • Apply the knowledge gained, presenting the results of the research, synthesising new and old information and data to create new knowledge and disseminating it in different ways

We live in an era of exponential change in relation to technology. These changes are in part responsible for the growing amount of new information and data that are made available to us. I personally feel that the more I learn, the more I find I have to learn. Being able to draw upon technology to organise information is a valuable skill to develop  As Prensky argues: 
'Technology alone will not replace intuition, good judgement, problem solving abilities and a clear moral compass. But in an unimaginably complex future, the digitally unenhanced person, however wise, will not be able to access the tools of wisdom that will be available to even the least wise digitally enhanced person.' (Prensky 2009)

Mobile phones have become ubiquitous and the increase in use of those we refer to as smart phones have provided users with a computer they can carry around in their pocket. With access to a growing range of cloud based applications along with apps that can be downloaded on to the phones themselves, there is the potential to learn anything, anywhere, anytime. Now to create a rich learning experience for our students does require some innovation on the part of the tutor, that is if they want to be the ones who facilitate this process. 

Ways in which students or anyone for that matter can take knowledge, be this factual, conceptual, procedural or metacognitive (Anderson and Krathwohl 2001) and go on to remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate and create new knowledge can be enhanced by the use of technology.  Andrew Churches created the Blooms Digital Taxonomy which helps the user to consider how the tools could facilitate learning.  

For example Tutors could introduce the use of Diigo a social bookmarking tool. However this would be of no value to the student(s) if the resources saved were not from a reliable source and actually incorrect, out of date or inappropriate. 


Anderson, L. W. and Krathwohl, D. R. (Eds) (2001) A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching and Assessing

Churches, A. (2012) Blooms Digital Taxonomy. Educational Origami wiki 

Prensky, M. 2009. H. sapiens digital: From digital immigrants and digital natives to digital wisdom. Innovate 5 (3). 

Prensky, M. (2010) Teaching Digital Natives. California: Corwin

Rheingold, H. (2011) Crap Detection 101: How to tell accurate information from inaccurate information, misinformation, and disinformation. [VIDEO] 

SCONUL (2011) The SCONUL Seven Pillars of Information Literacy Core Model for Higher Education

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