Sometime in late October I had breakfast with a former professor of mine, Mark Soto. Mark is a theology professor at Grace College in Winona Lake, IN and is one of the smartest people I know. Whenever I am fortunate enough to connect with Dr. Mark I leave with a lot to ponder and think about.
This day was no different. As our conversation wound from how Jesus handled tough conversations to the current state of education in America, Dr. Mark passed on to me a great explanation of how he thought education had changed. When Mark began his studies students would choose a field and then spend a great deal of time immersed in learning all of the information that there was to learn in their field. This mastery of content was the goal of learning.
He then pivoted to what he viewed as the key change. The amount of information is no longer master-able The internet and the connectivity that it provides has made this an impossible task. Rather, the goal of education should now be to give students the tools needed to find, evaluate, and curate this information. In the back of my brain this was not a new revelation, it was something that I had been thinking about and preaching in many forms for several years now.
What it wasn't was a concrete experience of within my life. Then Christmas Break came. My goal for Christmas Break was to read daily, finish several books, and pair down the list of reading in my Pocket app account. Eventually pairing down, by reading not deleting, my pocket account soon became my over riding endeavor. Try as I might though, it just continued to grow. Even after spending hours daily at Starbuck's reading while having my pumpkin spice latte, I was not closer to getting to the end of the list. In fact it continued to grow, even as I read most of what was coming in on my Feedly account. Even when I eliminated things that I was not truly interested in, the list would not go down.
Nor should I expect it to. Even with an infinite amount of time, I could not conquer the list, because never before in time has the amount we know expanded so rapidly and been so accessible. For our students it will continue to do so. Thus, while content knowledge is important, Dr. Mark is right. We need to teach our learners to find outstanding and enlightening things to read, show them how to evaluate the information that they are taking in, help them develop the organizational skill of curating, and then model for them how to reflect and retain the information that they take in. Education is no longer about memorizing dates, facts, and formulas. It is about accessing, evaluating, and refining what we want to learn, then contributing our knowledge to the every growing catalog of humanity.