Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Difference Between Knowing and Understanding in the Immediately Connected Mobile World

Fisch notes that 'We have the technology'. Concerning the Bionic Eye iPhone app, he notes:
This is a nice little app for what it does, but imagine what it’s going to evolve into: a portable heads-up display for everything. Yes, right now it lists restaurants, subway stations (in certain cities), and wifi hotspots, but it’s not that hard to extrapolate a few years into the future where this app – or something like it – connects you to all the available information about whatever you’re looking at.

Whether it's this thing or some other, we are one way or another headed towards immediate on-the-go information all the time. But information alone is not education. Knowledge of content is only half the battle.

As constant immediate information becomes the norm, more than ever we are going to need to instill critical analytical skills into our students' educations. But we have to get beyond the limited definitions of critical thinking so often espoused.

We have to ever more distinguish between the ability to 'know' something and the ability to 'understand'. And most specifically to what this type of critical thinking should look like in the Digital Age, I'd suggest we need to consider the uniquely particular 21st century instances of content: namely links and apps.

Now, sure, links have been around since the beginning of the World Wide Web. But especially with regard to the savvy linking done on the fly via Twitter, links themselves are taking on the position of content rich text-forms.

We have to teach kids to understand the critical basis of 'link decision'; that is, the decision to hyperlink online. Links -- especially in mobile apps -- have become more than just directional; they've gained a sort of a live intertextual import. And so, I'd like to see intertextuality take center stage in our discussion of teaching critical thinking skills.

Because it's not just about reading the text; it's about meta-reading the links.

That too is part of the difference between knowing and understanding in the Digital Age.

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