I’ve been reading blogs regularly for two months now. I’ve found it alternately exhiliarating and exhausting. One question keeps forming in my head no matter how much I try to ignore it. And it seems to be coming at me from several different directions. First, is the information overload problem that Martha Burtis, Brian Lamb and Stephen Downs have discussed.
Another is Diana Oblinger’s presentation at the 2005 UMW Faculty Academy, where she argued that the net generation uses a different mode of learning than earlier students, one characterized by multiple data streams and multiple media, including more images, video, animation, and audio.
“I’m simply innundated with information and ideas. And the thing is, I’m barely skimming the surface. As wonderful as the the information-saturated world of blogs, and wikis, and podcasts, and social bookmarks, and all that other great stuff is, I simply can’t. . .take. . .much. . more. … And when I do read them and they are something really interesting (which isn’t ALL of the time but happens A LOT), I think “Oh no. How do I hold on to this?” I know that in two days I’ll be thinking back fondly on that great blog post I read, but I’ll have no idea of what it REALLY said…”
Okay, let me try to get to my point: this new mode of information distribution seems to emphasize breadth (e.g. multiple data streams) rather than depth and organization. Perhaps this is an unfair criticism, but when I read a blog and follow the links I don’t end up with an organized sense of what I’ve learned.
Compared with the “old mode” of learning using a textbook and a series of lectures, each of which tend to be organized, the new mode is bits and pieces, lots of links and references to other links and references.
Don’t get me wrong, many of these are really pithy, powerful ideas, but how does one get a sense of the whole? In short, I am left with two questions:
ï¿½ With this new mode of learning, how do we know what we’ve learned; and
ï¿½ How would an instructor assess what we’ve learned?