When we live in a connected world we have a personal stream of information that is comforting to us. Take this COETAIL participant for example who details his wonderful Sunday immersed in his personal information stream. 

I’m sure many of us have been there….relaxing on the couch yet totally immersed in information…information that we want because it’s relevant to us at that time and we’ve chosen that particular information.

IMG 0634
Is he really alone?

Now think of our students with their iPhones, Blackberries, iPods, Laptops, PlayStation 3s, and every other device that they interact with. All of these devices allow them to create and tap into their personal stream of information. A stream that they have created be it friends, news, updates, or status. They’ve decided who they want to connect to, and who they want to learn from. 

Then they go to school, they walk into classrooms and the door closing behind them signals a disconnect from the personal stream…you see their heads go down, their body language shows they’ve switched off and for the next 90 minutes they sit there listening to you talk about your information, not theirs.

You can be the most dynamic teacher in your school but how do you compete with a personal information stream that is waiting just beyond the door of the classroom? A stream that everyone knows is waiting there to be tapped into again. 

I think of the conferences I’ve been at where participants….mostly teachers….get frustrated when the Internet connection goes down…why…because they’re disconnected from their own personal stream and that’s just unacceptable at a conference….otherwise known as their classroom.

Yet we ask kids to do it everyday and to not complain.

The problem with education is we teachers can not compete with the personal information stream. It’s a battle we will never win. 

So the only option is not to compete with it, but to embrace it, use it, foster it, and acknowledge that it exists.

Once we stop competing against the stream and embrace it, a world of opportunities emerges. A new world full of connections, passions, and possibilities.


Like many people I’ve been trying to get as much information as possible about what continues to be an unfolding situation in Japan. But unlike many of you I don’t have a TV or read a newspaper. All my news comes from the Internet and what I can find and verify for myself. 

But of course I’m not the only one doing this. In fact a recent survey just released by Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism stats that at the end of 2010 more people got their news from the Internet than newspapers. That’s all fine and dandy because we’ve seen this coming for awhile now. But the bigger news is this:

Of course, the 18-to-29-year-old group overwhelmingly cast their vote with the web; 65% said the Internet was their main news source.

So we’re seeing the next generation overwhelemingly use the web to get their information and the generation behind them I’m sure will up that number even more.

So I keep thinking…where, when and are we teaching students to authenticate, evaluate, and analyze the information coming at them? No matter the media. We are doing this in education right? We’re taking time…especially when an opportunity like this presents itself to teach students this skill?

A great place to start. Go to Twitter’s search page

Do a search for #japan

Watch the stream….what do you believe? who do you believe? 

Or go to Google News and see the different presepctives from different online newspapers.

Where do you begin in teaching these skills? Chris Betcher has a great slide deck that will get you started.

The problem is it takes time. It takes time to vet the information. But in a world where the speed of information trumps authenticity us the user needed to authentic the information ourselves. This is our world….an always on…always expected to be on…up to the minute…breaking story…world we live in. If you wait for the evening news it’s old news.

Yesterday while working through my own process of looking for reliable information I followed links to this great site. http://mitnse.com/ which was set up and is run by MITs Nuclear Science and Engineering Department. After finding this site and coming to my own conclusions that it’s a reliable striaght forward non-political site I started following it, read every article on the site and it’s now where I go first to get the real meaning of all these numbers you hear about, the different explosions and what they mean. I’ve learned more about how nuclear reactors work, what is worrying and what is not by educating myself from a website I trust.

At the end of the day every user needs to come to their own conclusion, but are we preparing students to find, verify, and educated themselves in an information overload world? 

I sure hope so because there is a load of misinformation out there and people taking the opporunity to push their own agenda rather than reports facts. These are the skills of the new information world we live in…and I really hope we’re teaching them to our students!

(Full Disclosure: It comes on right after American Idol on our TV so watch it by default….I’m in China our choices are limited! 🙂 )

1) Grab your laptop and go to Google.com

2) When a question is asked see how long it takes you to find the answer.

3) Think about all the useless content we teach students 1-5 grade.

  • What does this say about what we’re teaching?
  • How much of the content that we teach in grades 1-5 is useless to us in the “real world”
  • Think like a 5th grader today: “Why should I learn this stuff when I can find it on google faster and when I need it?”