Teaching in the Age of Knowledge Abundance

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For the past few weeks I have been pondering ideas for a new faculty development effort that takes into account the unique nature of knowledge in 2015. I am hashing out details for a cohort based series titled Teaching in the Age of Knowledge Abundance. The term knowledge abundance came to my attention during a Keynote talk by Bonnie Stewart at the ET4OL conference last April. This term resonated with me because it describes what I see as the biggest challenge facing educators today. How do we teach if the students have Google in their pocket? I hear many educators struggling with students, learning and teaching these days. The struggle is often framed around mobile devices in the classroom or lazy students, but I think these arguments leave out the real issue. The issue of the accessibility of knowledge. Unlike a decade ago, we now live in a world where information is everywhere and knowledge is easy to come by. Anyone can access information and they can also easily create sources of knowledge. This change dramatically impacts every aspect of the learning process and by default the teaching process. That said, the skills needed to be successful in the age of knowledge abundance are often not intuitive and they are new to most current teachers.  Unlike any time in the past, our students now need to know how to access, collect, synthesize, critique and create knowledge. They are not limited to consuming, remembering and analyzing. This poses a new challenge for teachers.  It requires teachers to think differently about how they teach and what students learn. We need to explore these changes with faculty. Discussions about teaching practices need to take place around the topic of knowledge abundance.  I have set out to create a professional development opportunity that will allow faculty time to dig into questions about teaching in 2015 and beyond. The goal will be to bring together an interdisciplinary group of faculty to discuss ideas and develop learning experiences that take advantage of knowledge abundance. This is in the early stages, but the outline thus far includes the following focus topics:

  • Examining traditional & untraditional knowledge sources
  • The role of social media and knowledge
  • Power on or Power off? Mobile devices and learning
  • Facilitating curation & creation
  • Crowdsourcing knowledge

What am I missing? I would love input and ideas on this topic.



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5 comments to “Teaching in the Age of Knowledge Abundance”

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  1. Mary Adler - September 13, 2015 at 4:41 pm Reply

    Hi JIll,
    This is terrific–I love the concept of “knowledge abundance”–it so well captures the benefits and drawbacks of being inundated with information on a daily (hourly?) basis, and I think it is really important to consider what that means to us as teachers in terms of what counts as knowledge in our courses as well as the procedural knowledge we convey to students in how to navigate it.

    Some related topics that might be added:
    –shifting conceptions of peer review in an online environment (how do readers determine credibility in a medium of self-publishing/posting, embedded links, intertextuality, and so forth)?
    –opportunities/cautions for researchers (what counts as primary source data? how does crowdsourcing fit into research methodologies? what meaning do social scientists make of various online communities?)
    –speed of information and the changing “news cycle” in which there’s a new “front page” every 15 minutes and yet nothing is ever forgotten.
    Cool stuff!

    • admin - September 14, 2015 at 6:06 pm Reply

      Thanks for the feedback Mary. I appreciate all three points you raise. I feel like the second point might be better suited for a general faculty development session that focused specifically on conducting research. Although not a direct link, your comment made me think of an article I read this morning, Researchers are not “hoodwinked” victims. The first and third points are ones that will fit perfectly. They could either be separate topics or embedded within the other categories. I can imagine the speed of information issue begin tied to a discussion about social media. As for credibility, this is such a huge and important topic. I am teaching a class right now with Michelle and we are digging into this issue a bit. We are using the concept of “Crap Detection” present by Howard Rheingold in NetSmart. We also gave them this resource. It is resonating well with the students. Thanks again!

  2. Charles Jennings - September 13, 2015 at 6:51 pm Reply

    I wonder whether you’re confusing ‘knowledge abundance’ with ‘information abundance’. There’s no doubt that we’re living in an age of information abundance, but knowledge is a slightly different thing. We create knowledge by making sense of information. One person’s knowledge can’t simply be transferred to another (Google may be a powerful information access tool, but it hasn’t yet managed to redefine the nature of knowledge). We access information and create knowledge.

    I’ve been exploring this issue for some time. Here is an article I wrote some time ago about the ‘find-access’ vs. the traditional approach to teaching and learning.


    • admin - September 14, 2015 at 6:20 pm Reply

      Hi Charles, Thank you for the feedback. I pondered the use of information over knowledge quite a bit. I decided to stick with knowledge because I think this is where the shift is happening. We have had information abundance for quite some time now, but the change I believe we are currently seeing is about knowledge. We are seeing a growth in people outside of the traditional knowledge making roles contributing to the general knowledge base of our society at an unprecedented rate. I believe this conversation, the difference between knowledge and information is important. I also believe we need to be talking about what constitutes knowledge and who creates knwoledge. I look forward to reading your post more closely. I might refer to it for our program.

  3. michelle pacansky-brock - September 13, 2015 at 8:32 pm Reply

    Hi Jill. This sounds like a wonderful PD opportunity for faculty. At first glance, I thought your topics were right on. After I thought a little more, however, I am wondering if #2: the role of social media and knowledge may be too broad and, in many ways, I think it may already fold into the other topics (especially #1, 4, 5).

    Now, I may be too close to this topic, but, in my mind, in the age of knowledge abundance, there has been a fundamental shift in how value is created. In the information age, a subject matter expert provided value through contributing credible knowledge (in print form). In the social era, value is more derived through communities in which everyone contributes. Hierarchies are broken down and people who may have been viewed as a “nobody” can emerge as an expert or “influencer” (one with a strong following). But to be an influencer, one must first examine who s/he is and identify what s/he brings to the table that is valuable to the community. If you have time, read this post by Nilofer Merchant and watch the TED video at the bottom of the page. I have learned alot from her. Perhaps this could be a powerful topic to end the series with: “What is your onlyness?” or “Who are you in the social era?” http://nilofermerchant.com/2013/01/17/onlyness-the-topic-and-the-talk-at-tedxhouston/

    Looking forward to seeing how this shapes up.


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