Sometimes, change is gradual and we don’t even realize it has happened until we look back after a period of time and realize, “Hmm, this is different than before.”
Other times, change hits you like a sledgehammer and you sit straight upright in your chair, wondering, “When and how the heck did this happen?”
Today is one of the latter: I’ve been hit with the Change Sledgehammer.
While on Twitter, Karl Fisch tweeted about his latest post titled “Things Just Changed. Again.” Intrigued, I clicked the link. Within minutes, my world has changed.
- Read Karl’s post.
- Watch the screencast, which will introduce you to Wolfram Alpha, a “computational knowledge engine.”
- Pick your jaw up off the floor.
- Tell everyone you know, especially educators.
After watching that screencast, I, like plenty of other educators (I hope!), again have to wonder: Why are we teaching content? Why, Why, Why?
Doesn’t this possibility — this search engine that can “compute answers to your specific questions” — demonstrate so clearly what is most important? I don’t need to know how to calculate the median or range of a group of numbers. I don’t even need to know how to calculate the properties of water at 2.5 atmospheres of pressure — Wolfram Alpha can do it for me. What is more important is how to interpret the data that something like Wolfram Alpha spits out for me. All those graphs, tables, new vocabulary, and more are useless without using Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) to sort them out and make sense of them. Why aren’t we teaching more visual literacy and data interpretation — in every subject area?
At about 12:36 in that screencast:
We’re trying to take as much of the world’s knowledge as possible, and make it computable.
So the question for education is no longer, “What do we want our students to know?” but instead should be “What do we want our students to be able to do?”
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