The where is more important than the what!

I remember having to learn where every country was in the globe for a map test my freshman year of high school, or memorizing the periodic table for chemistry exams. I always failed these types of exams, because I knew how to access this information, but my brain is not wired to remember all the information that I read or study. Memory tests have been and always will be hard for me.

I have loved reading A New Culture of Learning by Thomas and Seely Brown, in which they discuss the importance of process of learning and how digital media can advance these processes. Further the network that students are building while engaging these materials and the contribution they are making in the digital sphere is incredibly important. This quote from the text this week stood out to me and got me thinking about the teaching practice that I am going to employ in my classroom, Thomas and Seely Brown stated;

“Only by understanding the where of a piece of information can we understand it’s meaning. This perspective also reshapes the notion of expertise. In a new information economy, expertise, is less about having a stockpile of information or facts at one’s disposal and increasingly about knowing how to find and evaluate information on a given topic. Again, this is a where question, both in terms of where the information is found and in terms of where it is being deployed to communicate something.” (Thomas & Seely Brown, 93).

They go on to discuss the importance of video games. Not having been a video-gamer myself, I had a hard time tracking. But what really stood out to me, and what I have gained to understand is that these students while playing video games are gaining skills in the  retrieval and interpretation of mass  information. They are gaining skills in research and dissemination of information on a variety of platforms. We as educators can take these skills, going as far as talking about video games in class, and help students relate the information and skills that they are learning with the video games and translate this information into research or distillation of content in terms that they understand. Helping them understand that the same skills they are using in video games are helpful and needed in academics.

I want my students to play, I want them to interact on media formats and most importantly I want students to learn the where of the content not necessarily the what of the content. If we can teach them how to access, translate & transform it, then disseminate the information I think our job as educators are done.

What are some topics/games/media’s that you have talked about in your class in trying to help students learn the where of information instead of the what?

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