Monday, 29 May 2017

Knowledge versus Information

I read a great quote the other day, from Canadian novelist, Louise Penny.

In one of her Inspector Gamache novels, "Bury Your Dead" one of her support characters, Inspector Langlois thinks that a particular library
"smelled of the past, of a time before computers, before information was 'Googled' and 'blogged.' Before laptops and BlackBerries and all the other tools that mistook information for knowledge" (2010, p. 58).
I thought that this phrase was quite telling. Why? Because I think we regularly mistake information for knowledge.


Knowledge is defined as the "facts, information, and skills acquired through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding" (Google, 2017b). It implies mastery of something.

Information is, as we can see by the definition above, a subset of knowledge. Information are the "facts provided or learned about something or someone" ((Google, 2017a). 

A deep and abiding knowledge of something can be fudged for a short time by using superficial information. However, when we need to tackle something that is not in the ordinary run of things, we need knowledge. We need knowledge in the sense of understanding, command, or mastery.

We can give students lots of information via MOOCs, but until they apply the learning, trial it, fail at it a few times and finally master it, it remains information and does not become knowledge. 

Nothing beats careful, complete and diligent scaffolded learning.

And that is probably why MOOCs on their own will not replace degree programmes in the near future.



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