Monday, September 13, 2010

Creativity and Searching

The Educators Dilemma: how can we adequately prepare learners for a future that can't even be imagined in five years?

What information and skills will students need to be competent in five years? Memorized answers to traditional questions seems insufficient. This is the argument for 21st Century Skills and learning how to learn.

Information Fluency (or information literacy) is an essential 21st Century skill set. According to some accounts, we live in a world of "infowhelm" in which information has increased 10,000% in six years. See: Infowhelm is not going away, and this forms part of the educational dilemma: the path to the information we may need is largely unknown. It has to be discovered. So what sort of education does that?

Whether we encourage it or not, students tend to be creative ("when they don't know they have a go") in many pursuits. That was my experience trying to learn mathematics (very creative but ineffective). When it involves searching, the saying doesn't hold up. Watch students search. They tend to stick with the same keywords when searching. Their method of being creative with a search is to browse (clicking links looking for clues).

Students could be a lot more creative in the pursuit of information for which they lack the right keywords. A contemporary education needs to encourage discovery. This needs to be extended to keyword searching.

Next time you work with students on a search problem, encourage them to think beyond the few words they think of first. The usual situation is that the words we need are NOT the first ones we think of. That becomes a very creative exercise that blends other words we know and words we discover during the search, including words we don't yet understand.

"Creative" Challenge
Answer this scenario using a search engine:
Patients have few alternatives other than using expensive replacement batteries to power medical implants. Find a power option other than these batteries.

(there may be more than one correct answer - what's important is HOW you get the answer)