Recently I posted on Twitter a picture a friend had sent me of work a young student did in the classroom. The post went a little viral (or as viral as something can in my tiny corner of the universe) and people seemed to interpret it in different ways. I thought I’d write a quick post to explain it a bit more. First here the picture:
I tweeted: “Finally, proof that knowledge doesn’t matter when you can just look anything up on google.”
I wrote that because I see “experts” and technologists and people with Ted talks saying this kind of thing all the time. Facts don’t matter. If you need it, just look it up. But this picture explains why this is erroneous logic. Knowledge is different from information. Knowledge contextualizes information.
So while it is true that there is more information available now than ever before, it is also true that knowledge is more important than ever before. The student who wrote this–no I do not think it’s funny–is doing the equivalent of looking something up on google. He/she is encountering new information that he or she knows very little about. And so he or she has precious little knowledge about what a plausible answer might be.
Knowledge is defined here as a body of facts about the world stored in long-term memory and therefore always at your disposal. Without knowledge you have no idea what information matters or even sometimes what it means when you encounter it. Knowledge allows you to connect information to other facts to form an idea or contextualize it or assess its credibility as you encounter it. And so the explosion of information in society only makes having knowledge–facts you have in long-term memory, facts like what is a plausible answer for who was the first president of the United States–MORE important.