Some of you know that I am currently pursuing a Doctorate of Ministry through Rockbridge Seminary in Springfield, Missouri. Here's an honest disclaimer: if you're not an education nerd like me, these posts in the Rockbridge Series are probably not going to interest you. However, if you're are an education nerd like myself, you'll probably want to check back each Monday during this series.
Here's what has happening: in my final seminar of doctoral work, four fellow cohort members and myself were tasked with providing a resource for churches and ministry organizations to understanding how to more effectively teach in an increasingly digital generation. While this was approached from a theological standpoint as a project, it has proven to be highly informative for secular educators and leaders as well. So for the past five weeks fellow cohort members have been guest writers here on my site to share what we're learning.
The principles share in this series have been based on assertions made by authors Ian Jukes, Ted McCain, and Lee Crockett in their book Understanding the Digital Generation: Teaching and Learning in the New Digital Landscape. They suggest that while educators will continue to teach traditional skills, there will be a shift in emphasis of importance for those skills (loc 1652). For instance, they write the following:
Good handwriting has long been valued by teachers as an important skill for student to acquire because that skill was critical for a paper-based note taking, letter writing, form completion, and report writing that was done in the 20th-centure industrial life. And while there are still cognitive benefits to learning to write by hand and good reasons to teach this skill to students as they go through school, we must face the fact that the emphasis on handwriting as a critical skill for the world at large has changed significantly over the last 20 years.
The world has shifted to a digital realm where writing is done almost exclusively using digital software tools. This means that handwriting is not nearly as important as a job skill today as it was in the past. It is important that teachers re-evaluate the importance of all the skill they have taught traditionally in light of the realities of the new digital world (Kindle loc. 1578).
With this considerable shift in mind, these posts in the Rockbridge Series have explored essential skills in which people need to be fluent in order to function a world full of technology today. These are the skills that leaders and educators in both Christian and secular realms need to consider when engaging with their students or followers.
This week I finish the Rockbridge Series with our final skill.
THIS WEEK'S SKILL: INFORMATION FLUENCY
One of the most distinguishing elements about Millennials and Generation Z is how they engage the world around them. Writer Grace Williams writes, “This generation is made up of the first true ‘digital natives.’ Gen-Z members are online at least an hour per day and nearly half of them are connected for over 10 hours per day” (Williams, 2015). Being “online” is no longer relegated to sitting at a desk behind a computer screen. With access to the world wide web now available on cellular devices, seventy-three percent of all Millennials consider their cell phone to be vital to their life (Rainer & Rainer, 2011, p. 191).
This type of exposure to media is very important to note. Growing up with Google at their fingertips, Millennials are becoming less and less dependent upon previous generations to help form their opinions. Rather, with ready access to information at practically all times, they are able to come to their own conclusions by seeking out answers themselves.
Obviously, if Millennials feel they can access any needed information at any time, they are essentially self-teaching themselves in many aspects and in many subjects. This can be somewhat dangerous due to the plethora of information available on the Internet. Google processes approximately three and a half billion searches per day and just over one trillion searches per year (“Google search statistics,” 2016). At the time of this writing, a simple Google search of the term “Millennial” returned some twenty-seven and a half million results. When multiplication of millions, billions, and trillions begin to happen, it very easy to see that the amount of information available is practically limitless. Furthermore, much of this limitless supply of information does not have to cited, fact-checked, experimented with, or anything of the sort. Anyone who wishes can go to the world wide web and publish anything they want at any time they wish. A perfect example of such a scenario is ever-popular online encyclopedia Wikipedia. Considering the validity of Wikipedia’s content, historian Roy Rosenzweig (2006) writes:
Wikipedia is entirely free. And that freedom includes not just he ability of anyone to read it (a freedom denied by the scholarly journals in, say, JSTOR, which requires an expensive institutional subscription) but also – more remarkably – their freedom to use it. You can take Wikipedia's entry on Franklin D. Roosevelt and put it on your own Web site, you can band out copies to your students, and you can publish it in a book – all with only one restriction: You may not impose any more restrictions on subsequent readers and users than have been imposed on you. And it has no authors in any conventional sense. Tens of thousands of people – who have not gotten even the glory of affixing their names to it – have written it collaboratively (p. 117).
In other words, again, anyone can write anything they want, about anything they want, anytime they want. In fact, I'm doing it right now!
Therefore, educators at any level should seek to help new generations hone their critical thinking skills so that they know how to navigate through such a plethora of both useful and useless information.
This new generation of learners need to possess the ability to process and filter the surplus of information available to them. That is precisely what Information Fluency is – the ability to surf the web and figure out how to zero in on the information for which one is searching (Jukes, McCain, & Crockett, 2010, Kindle loc. 1610). Once more, Jukes, McCain, and Crockett (2010) state that information fluency goes even deeper:
The second subset of information fluency skills is the ability to effectively access the information that is retrieved from searched or the content of messages being retrieved. A person can’t be considered to have information literacy, let alone information fluency, if all they can do is get information without the ability to critically evaluate the data they find. We are so overwhelmed with the amount of information available to us already that accessing it is really not helpful (Kindle loc. 1620).