Learning in the Age of Information Overload
More than 2,000 years ago, Aristotle proposed that the human mind is a blank slate at birth and that knowledge comes from perception and experiencing the surrounding environment. What advice, then, would he have for children growing up in a world that serves them the equivalent of 174 newspapers worth of data every day? While learning—the literal transition from not knowing to knowing—likely hasn’t changed much since Aristotle’s time, the amount of information available to learn and the number of ways in which to learn it have grown exponentially. So it could be said that successful knowledge acquisition in the 21st Century also entails the ability to sort, analyze, and effectively act based on the flood of information that surrounds us.
When the first web page was published in 1991, it called the World Wide Web a “wide-area hypermedia information retrieval initiative aiming to give universal access to a large universe of documents.” Over time this miraculous tool has grown to become a remarkable way of sharing educational resources, providing access to an endless vault of information.
However, as the Web has mushroomed, now encompassing more than 8.6 billion indexed web pages, finding quality content efficiently has become one of the Internet’s biggest challenges. The Learning Resource Metadata Initiative (LRMI) aims to improve search results on the web through the creation of a metadata framework specifically for learning resources. The LRMI is one of the first industry-specific extensions to Schema.org, an effort by Bing, Google, Yahoo!, and Yandex to standardize the way content is marked up, or tagged, on the web. Once a critical mass of educational content has been tagged using the LRMI framework, search platforms will be able to offer filters such as subject area, grade level, type of resource, standards alignment, etc. This will benefit both the user, who will be able to find what they’re looking for at the teachable moment, as well as the publisher, whose content will be more discoverable.
Michael Jay, President of Educational Systemics, whose mission it is to support the K-12 market through strategic planning and product development, reflects on this transition in search below.
“Do you recall much of your education? It was almost certainly all about recall. Today, our children’s lives revolve around finding resources and making connections, as does their future work. The days of handing learners and educators THE resource are fading. Instead, we need to help them find the best resources to address their particular needs. LRMI is about providing the hooks that facilitate informed finding and sorting of learning resources so that all children have access to the resources that are best for them and educators can respond to learners’ individual needs. In this way we help develop lifelong learners who build knowledge that is relevant to them.”