I am constantly reminding my students, especially when they ask me a fact-based question, that we are living in a world in which the accumulation of facts is neither possible not necessary. The volume of knowledge is expanding at ridiculous rates, and our sense of education needs to adapt to this reality.
We are–more than ever before–in the business of teaching students to manage information. We are training them to evaluate, select, index, and otherwise organize information. Ignoring the “stranded on a desert island” scenario that many older folks like to throw around, today’s citizens will never be far from the Internet and its overflowing fountain of facts. Therefore, we are better served to teach them the skills they need to make sense of facts, not to memorize them.
And, as many smarter people than me have already noted, this transition makes the role of curator even more important. Curators sift through some portion of this massive collection of information and evaluate it, collect it, and share it. I truly believe that everyone can be a curator about some topic that they are both interested in and knowledgeable about. These experts have the conceptual understanding to properly highlight meaningful knowledge for others.
In a recent conversation with a highly intelligent colleague, I realized that there are some who don’t see this “emergence of curation”. They don’t see the point of Pinterest, Twitter, or other social networks. They don’t realize that these forums are zones of curation where anyone can learn about anything by simply identifying the right curator. This is an important point, and I don’t know how to get it across to more people.
I’ve written before about the “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” view of technologists. I think that there is a similar dichotomy when it comes to curation. There are some who love to sift and read and watch and share. And there are some who enjoy reaping the benefits of this curation by others. But, the beauty of this system is that those who curate in one space or on one topic will often be the audience for other curators in other spaces and other topics. It is a surprisingly democratic element of the new reality of knowledge and learning.