Information Fluency Presentation-Old Skills, New Applications – Part 1

We’ve been working a lot with 21st century skills and trying to figure out how to make them make sense to ourselves and to teachers in the classroom. It’s been interesting in some ways and incredibly frustrating as well.

Here’s part one 1 my best shot at explaining how both the rate and the way information is created and published changes what we need to teach our students. No doubt some of you will find this rather obvious and boring but it was meant to be presented to teachers as way to encourage reflection in a non-intimidating way and to get a conversation going. By the way, I tend to freestyle my presentations based on audience reaction and interest so the text is just a rough attempt at getting the gist of each slide.

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To get anywhere with intelligence you have to know two things. Where you are and where you want to go.
Let’s take a minute and look at where we are when it comes to our world and information.
Question to the audience- How has the way you have to deal with information changed in the last ten years? Talk to your partner, you’ve got 2 minutes to come up with ans many differences as you can. I’d then call for volunteers to talk about their more interesting examples.

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We are living in a world built on and around information. A world where information is available faster and faster in larger and larger quantities. There’s good and bad in that.
Schools have always been based on information, but the way we have to deal with information has fundamentally changed.

I’m going to start off talking to you about two facts and their educational repercussions.
1. Information is being published in increasing amounts and with increasing speed.
2. The barriers to publishing to a world wide audience and the vetting necessary before reaching that audience have both dropped to near zero.

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Let’s talk about information creation first, but I want to do it in a way that makes it make sense. (possible aside – we are now routinely dealing with such enormous numbers our brains can’t process them so they just get lumped into the “really big” pile, coming up with ways to make them more concrete is important)

This is an image of the Library of Congress. It has about 650 miles of bookshelves and 32 million books. That’s enough bookshelves to get us from Richmond to near Daytona Beach. That’s a lot of information.


Now let’s take 2002. I know it’s ancient history but it’s the most recent date we’ve got decent information on. It takes a while to figure all this stuff out.

Here’s what we’re going to do. We’ll pretend the Library of Congress is a cup (a big cup, capable of holding 650 miles of bookshelves).

Now we’ve got a coffee pot. A really big coffee pot and in this pot is all the NEW information created way back in 2002.

My question is this. How many times can we refill our LOC cup before we run out of new information? 1 time, 10 times, 100 times. Keep in mind this is just new information we’re talking about. In the presentation, clicking will reveal the 37,000 times number. Pause for a minute. Just think about this. That was way back in 2002.

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Ok, so we know we created a huge amount of new information back in 2002. 5 exabytes worth (now you know why I went with the LOC metaphor). What percent of that new information do you think was printed on paper? Think about all the books, newspapers and magazines printed in the world. What percent of new information waaaaay back in 2002 was printed on paper? Get some guesses and then reveal .01% with click.

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While that’s going on 92% of new information is on some form of magnetic media – like the hard drive you see here. Do these facts change how we need to think about how students will interact with information? If so, how does it change the skills students will need?

I’ll do some more of this tomorrow. Even if it’s useless to others, it helps me further refine the ideas and I’ll take any constructive criticism anyone wants to share. The facts here are from the How Much Information? 2003 study out of Berkeley and the LOC stuff is straight from their page.

I did this presentation with Adam Garry for an ISTE School 2.0 workshop not too long ago and was semi-happy with how it went. The audience was fairly diverse and there were about 70 people present.

1 it’s late and it’s taking forever to write this in a readable form, I had planned on doing the whole thing tonight

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