What Matters is What You Can Do with What You Know. (modern skills)



If you follow any thought leader on the topic of modern learning and education, I suggest Will Richardson.   Here’s an excerpt from his recent article on ModernLearners.com (you’ll have to set up a free account to read the full article).

Now, as the authors of the study suggest, we need to understand that:

  • The shelf-life of information is unstable – Our “knowledge” of the world changes rapidly and, in some case, radically on a daily basis.
  • The interconnection of information resources is non-linear – The hyperlinked Web environment we live in renders much traditional thinking about research and reading almost useless.
  • Access to information is uncontrollable – The gatekeepers are by and large disappearing.
  • Creation of information is uncontrollable and global – Technologies and apps make writing (in all its diverse forms) and publishing to global audiences powerful and easy.
  • The source of true differentiation between people now lies in figuring things out as opposed to finding things out – As author Tony Wagner says, “It no longer matters what you know. What matters is what you can do with what you know.”

Very few of these new realities are currently a part of our context for education and schooling. We still have a library mentality when it comes to knowledge, that it has a spot in a traditional taxonomy, that we can read it and learn it page by page, chapter by chapter, that we have to go to some place to find it, and that “knowing” is more important than doing something with it. (Look at our assessment regimes regarding that last part.) Our contexts for our decision making do not acknowledge that with a connection to the Internet, we can now learn anytime we want, anywhere that we are, with whomever we can connect to from around the world at that moment. We now curate and write our own texts. We form our own classrooms. We direct our own curriculums. We assess our own learning. And we no longer simply consume; we create and share with the world.

The ‘shelf-life’ of information – I love that! I recently heard someone from IBM Watson say that if you start at at university in a Science half of what you learned will be obsolete by the end of four years. I’m sure there are many other references/studies/stats here (with varying shelf lives left), but the idea is the same – in the ‘old days’ you got your degree in engineering/english/teaching/medicine etc and then executed for the rest of your career – with on the job learning and professional assoc./conferences perhaps providing access to new knowledge, depending on the domain.

How long today would you expect to apply the knowledge you’ve gained from a college degree?  It’ll serve as a foundation, but with the explosion of sources, creators, access as Will describes…not long. A shift, I’d say.

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