Laptops, wireless internet access and robust search engines have fundamentally altered the way in which information, criticism and expertise are engaged in the classroom. It’s all making education and academia much more transparent, says NYU journalism instructor Jefferson Flanders, whether teachers like it or not.
Transparency holds out the promise of a deeper, richer and more democratic educational experience, but also an implied challenge to the traditional academic order.
The late Nobel Prize-winning economist Herbert Simon had it right: the verb “to know” used to mean having information stored in one’s memory – and it now means having access to that information and knowing how to use it. Maintaining the instructor’s authoritative “sage on the stage” role will grow more difficult. Instead, teachers at all levels will increasingly be called on to help students navigate this Alexandrine-like Web library and a new informational literacy will be needed, with an emphasis on judgment, synthesis, clear thinking, and what author Robert McHenry calls a “genial skepticism” about the veracity and quality of the information a mouse-click away.