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Emeritus Faculty in the School of Engineering / University of Connecticut

Using the Explosion of Available Information

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When one notes the volume of information found through most any search done, two thoughts come to me: [a] there has to be conflicting information within the results of the topic search; and [b] the amount of information available on topics related to the standards or frameworks associated with learning in schools is far greater than could ever be addressed in the classroom.

Therefore some consequences arise that I would suggest need to be considered in facilitation of learning in schools:

1. Some information from a search will likely be flat out wrong. Only by gathering information from numerous sources and comparing that collection of information will contradictions be identified - to be subsequently checked for validity. In fact, it is important for students to identify such contradictions in their subsequent use of this material to remind everyone that those contradictions do exist.

2. Even if the contradictions are resolved, that doesn't end the investigation of the various information obtained from a search. The information must be investigated for USEFULNESS. Just because it's valid information doesn't mean it is appropriate to the specific situation currently being addressed. Students need to address the usefulness of information [or lack thereof] in their efforts and reports.

3. Given the volume of non-contradictory information available, it is absolutely critical that efforts be made by teachers and content experts to identify the CORE KNOWLEDGE appropriate to any topic. My definition of core knowledge is knowledge that enables one to gather information and make decisions as to validity and usefulness and/or enables one to have conversations with topic experts that are of value through asking meaningful questions and being able to interpret/use subsequent answers. This core knowledge then must be learned sufficiently that it can be used to gather, organize, evaluate, and use information from searches. AND the efforts in and outside the classroom made must include ones that require such student efforts with searches.

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