Thoughts on future knowledge

So I’ve been thinking the last couple of days, you would too if you were in the same creative and inspirational environment as me, I’m in a cabin with my family in the southern parts of northern Sweden called Hälsingland with almost 1½ meters of snow surrounding us and no distractions in sight.

I got into a discussion with me oldest boy (I’ve been having a lot of those lately) about which region (landskap in Swedish) we had travelled through to get to the cabin and his immediate answer was to use his favorite Internet enabled map browsing technology to answer my question. My first reaction was WTF? But then I got to deeper thoughts as the day went by, it seemed like I just couldn’t leave this thoughts unprocessed and I found myself returning to these questions?

How would I go about learning stuff in school and life if I was a child today? And how would I define knowledge then?

In my school days (and mind you this was not centuries ago ;-)) it was forbidden to use calculators on some math tests because you had to show that you had knowledge in understanding the concepts of math. Today I could use Wolfram Alpha and get the right answers immediately, but I still need the ability to filter out the right answer.

But what if your mind was connected to a massive collective information cluster like the Internet? How would you as a educational institute test the knowledge of your students then? I personally don’t think the idea of having an Internet enabled mind is science fiction, instead the idea fascinates me and I can see that we’re almost there now as we share both thoughts and images daily through social medias like Twitter and Facebook. The one thing missing is the physical connection between your mind and the Internet.

So what will define knowledge in this scenario? Isn’t knowledge the ability to search for, filter out and identify the best (collectively) known answer to the question at hand? If you think about knowledge this way you start to realize the power of search and even more the importance of privacy. This would certainly demand new learning methods and knowledge testing that I haven’t seen at all in the Swedish public school but somewhat in the private schools.

The first step should be to give every school kid a laptop or mobile device with an Internet connection. The second step would be to let them go information discovering.

I must say these thoughts have truly dazed me the last couple of days in such way that I hesitated to write this post. But then I realized it would be more fun returning to this post in a couple of years to see how things evolved and it will be even more interesting following my boys school years, I bet I’ll question the educational methods a lot during the years to come…

Have a great holiday season and a Happy New Year!

Hugo

2 Replies to “Thoughts on future knowledge”

  1. Guess you have been following IBM AI computer Watsons beating the champs in Jeopardy? Still a boxed problem, but it does push the line on step further out to what you can do with technology.

    As for knowledge is surely does pose some new challenges. I would argue that to be successful in the all-connected-world (as you write, it is only a matter of time before that’s reality) you need a different skillset. Learning becomes a pull activity instead of pull. Specifically you will need:
    1. Be able to identify and define the problem and put it into context (know that we have regions in Sweden, and which type you were talking about, i.e. in Swedish landskap, län eller kommun)
    2. Find a source that can solve or tell you how to solve it. (the mapping service you choice)
    3. Verfiy that the source is valid (knowing that the mapping service offer valid maps)

    For people in the old educational system, I think most struggle with 3, as this is not really an issue with in a “push educational system”, it is done for you. For the ones being educated in a “pull system” I think 1. is quite hard as there is no natural way in which you build a “framework in your head” where you can understand break problems down.

    Peter

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