Infobesity???

infobesity2

A student shares this information with me which I thought it was fascinating. It deals with information overload.

The internet is almost 25 years old and already every 60 seconds:

160 million emails are sent.

1500 Blog entries are made.

98,000 tweets are shared on Twitter.

694,445 Google searches are completed.

695,000 Facebook status updates are posted.

6,600 photos are uploaded to Flickr.

600 videos are uploaded to You Tube.

The sheer volume of information which is available to us is truly amazing, but perhaps our technology has surpassed our ability to effectively consume so much information. Researchers tend to agree that it’s not the volume of information that is the problem; it’s our inability to organize and process it all without experiencing “information overload, or what neuroscientists like to call “cognitive overload. In recent years, technology strategists have even compared information overload to physical obesity, dubbing it “infobesity. Just as our eyes are sometimes larger than our stomachs, our interest can be significantly greater than our brain capacity.

I teach both online and FTF classes and utilize Blackboard for all my classes. Students submit all their work on Blackboard and receive responses from me on Blackboard as well. We have students who chose sometimes not to attended regular FTF lectures, but continue to turn in assignments or submit any other work required in Blackboard.  Levels of understanding of the subject matter will obviously will vary and logic should show the FTF students benefit from having a fuller educational experience.

So how can we help prevent students from becoming victims of this notion of infobesity? How do we help students remained focused without getting through college learning  the art of “skimming”, you know, that’s when you just learn enough of what your instructor wants you to know. We skim the textbook, skim the information found on the internet, like the proverbial husband who always is being accused of not reading the instructions on a home project, he’ll just “skim it”, because he doesn’t need all that other stuff, until he realizes he missed something.

We are so easily districted these days with Facebook, Twitter, You Tube videos, and the last goes on and on. Based on research pertaining to distraction and learning, it was stated that today’s students have shorter attention spans than previous years. This recent PEW study found that a majority of teachers (87%) agree with assertion that “today’s digital technologies are creating a generation of short attention spans.”

So the dilemma continues because we as educators rely on those digital technologies. We contribute to this notion of information overload. Presentations become better, more visually interesting. Students stay more interested if there are visuals, especially incorporated in your lecture presentations. It’s about keeping your audience interested and engaging and technology allows for this to happen, but let’s not forget the role of the instructor, the captain of the ship, the headliner of the show, where the buck really stops in regards to teaching. Spending an entire class and having the opportunity to look into your students eyes and speak to them face to face is the ultimate kind of technology, the human kind.

I find that breaking up my class  with one lecture using PowerPoint presentations and then alternating the next class, talking about the subject matter in a much less formal approach with no use of any technology, just an old fashion “chat and share” about the subject matter. This usually turns into more of a forum for questions, because as we all know, no “proper” student would interrupt the professor in the middle of a visual/technological presentation, now would they? Obviously, I’m kidding about the proper student thing, but does shed more truth than not.

The above model works for me and I think for the students as well. There is no getting around technology, but how we affectively use it to enhance learning is the real challenge and perhaps provides the solution as well.

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