I’m sitting inside the classroom of our music subject, listening to my classmates discuss the meaning of the song lyrics we have been assigned to sing. The tune has some old-fashioned words in it, and one of them completely dropped me on the floor because we don’t what it means. The teacher wants to know if anyone us was able to get the meaning. Someone raised his hand with a definition. But to be more sure, the instructor comments that we can look the meaning on the Internet to find out.
Google comes to the rescue yet again. When it comes to these kind of immediate inquiry, the Internet can always rescue a damsel-in-ignorant-distress like me numerous times.
In just a snap of a finger, all of a sudden the incredible ease and convenience of searching in Google, Bing or any other major search engine took on a new meaning for me. You can think about it this way: we want to know something in our music class, so for the first time in history, we can look it up in less than ten seconds and find exactly what we need. In a broader context, almost any information we want, or even the ones we don’t want, is available literally at our fingertips–or, for those with a functional relationship with Siri or Cortana, at the sound of our voice.
You may be nodding your head in a “so what” way, but this incident in our music class raises deeper questions for me that might interest you as well. What does the ease and convenience of the information age do or contribute to education? How does it condition students to approach learning, especially for students who often have an entitlement mentality? What has knowledge become when it no longer has to be sought primarily in libraries, or when it has ceased to be the rare and cherished gift that it was when newspapers were a phenomenon?
From one Millennial student’s perspective, it seems that the ease with which information of almost any kind can be obtained these days makes knowledge a commodity. This is an interesting thought when we consider that, about 200 years ago, people would gather eagerly around a bonfire or a lit candle on a table to listen to someone read the newspaper or anticipate and receive a catalogue with awe (this reminds me of reading Reader’s Digest from my mom’s subscription).
Think about the day when people, let’s say, from Renaissance period could never have visualized the concept of “moving pictures,” much less envisioned that they would be able to control a box-sized object by pressing a button and then be greeted by several different news stations reporting the events of the world. There was a time when pieces of information had to be sought rigorously because it was a precious rarity rather than a commodity.
And in today’s information age, there is a wealth of easy access to anything that we want to know lightning fast. Do you want to cook something fancy for dinner but don’t have culinary training? Ask Google. Are you going somewhere but don’t know where to stay? Ask Google. Are you looking for jobs and career opportunities? Ask Google. There are countless questions that the Internet can answer, or should I see there’s hardly a question that the Internet can’t provide information.
Let’s now go to my favorite topic: world travel. You see, the previous generation had limited world travel because it was considered to be luxurious and only a few can afford. But because of strong competition and rising number of airlines around the world from 2000 up to present, airfares dropped down to all time low making it affordable for anyone to travel from country to country. As for me who is still a student, I would definitely say that I’m blessed to be born during this time.
As far as the potential of the Information Age to directly impact learning, the commonness of knowledge does not automatically guarantee a more informed generation. When knowledge becomes a commodity, there is always the potential for it being abused or undervalued, and the responsibilities that come with the increase of information are vast.
On the other hand, the fact that a person can discover nearly anything at any time through a push of a button has the inherent potential to produce a brilliantly savvy, aware and intelligent generation if it is stewarded properly. We are used to being constantly exposed to some form of mental stimulation in our current info-tech culture, thus education in the 21st century has the capability to be a daily affair that transcends the classroom. The availability of all kinds of information to all kinds people in every season and station of life can make life-long learners of us all.
Hopefully, this article has got the wheels of your brains turning about the information age we live in. If knowledge is power, we are the most powerful generation yet.