User Generated Education

Education as it should be – passion-based.

Information Abundance and Its Implications for Education

with 7 comments


As I read through the social media networks, the concept of information overload is continually being discussed.

Information overload is a term popularized by Alvin Toffler in his bestselling 1970 book Future Shock. It refers to the difficulty a person can have understanding an issue and making decisions that can be caused by the presence of too much information. Information overload occurs when the amount of input to a system exceeds its processing capacity. Decision makers have fairly limited cognitive processing capacity. Consequently, when information overload occurs, it is likely that a reduction in decision quality will occur.  

As the world moves into a new era of globalization, an increasing number of people are connecting to the Internet to conduct their own researchand are given the ability to produce as well as consume the data accessed on an increasing number of websites. Users are now classified as active users  because more people in society are participating in the Digital and Information Age.  This flow has created a new life where we are now in danger of becoming dependent on this method of access to information.  Therefore we see an information overload from the access to so much information, almost instantaneously, without knowing the validity of the content and the risk of misinformation.

I have re-framed information overload from being discussed as a cautionary consequence of the technology age to us living in a time of information abundance.  I think we are living in one of the most exciting times in the history of humankind. We are living in a world of information abundance, surplus, and access.  The result is synergy whereby the human mind plus our current technologies far exceed the sum of these individual parts.  By this I mean we have technologies to access any type of information and to create products that match the pictures and voices in our minds; and we can use technology to get the assistance and feedback from folks around the globe.

I am not alone in my enthusiasm for this age of information at our fingertips. In a study conducted from Northwestern University, Overwhelmed by instant access to news and information? Most Americans like it,  researchers concluded “There’s definitely some frustration with the quality of some of the information available, but these frustrations were accompanied by enthusiasm and excitement on a more general level about overall media choices.”

Weinberger, author of Too Big to Know, believes we have entered a new golden age, one in which technology has finally caught up with humans’ endless curiosity, and one that has the potential to revolutionize a wide swath of occupations and research fields.”

Implications for Education

As educators, we have this gift of information abundance. It should be leveraged and strategically used for our own and our students’ learning. When educators do not acknowledge, incorporate, and integrate the many types and uses of our real world technologies, they are failing their students.

  • Educators are no longer the gatekeepers to information.  Prior to Web 1.0 and Web 2.o, students were often dependent on educators to be the experts to tell them about and share resources about the content-related topic.  Now the Internet has videos, resources, and research from experts and practitioners who often know more about the content than does the educator.  Now more than even, the educator needs to:
  • The Internet needs to be open and available to students.  Many students already have access to information where and when they want it but often not in the school setting.  Many are learning more after school hours than during school hours.  By limiting students to textbooks and information as selected by districts, principals, textbook and testing companies, a type of censorship occurs.  Students have the opportunity, through the Internet, to hear, see, and read about varying perspectives on so many topics.  Depriving them of the opportunity to do so limits their education.
  • Information and media literacy needs to integrated across the curriculum and grade levels. 

Our rapid transformation into a technology driven, information society has dramatically altered the k-16 teaching and learning landscape.  And, as a result, the sustainability of our current economic foundation, strengthening our national security, even maintaining the very essence of our democratic way of life depends more and more on producing learners who not only know how to think, but know how to problem solve within a diversified information and communication technology universe.


  • Global-oriented and multicultural education also needs to be integrated across the curriculum and grade levels.

From science and culture to sports and politics, ideas and capital are crossing borders and spanning the world. The globalization of business, the advances in technology, and the acceleration of migration increasingly require the ability to work on a global scale. As a result of this new connectivity, our high school graduates will need to be far more knowledgeable about world regions and global issues, and able to communicate across cultures and languages. Our students must emerge from schools college-ready and globally competent, prepared to compete, connect, and cooperate with their generation around the world (The Global Classroom).

  • Students developing their own Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) should be viewed as a major instructional strategy.

A student personal learning network is, therefore, a rich and ever-growing series of connections with people, resources, and communities around the world…connections that allow us to grow in knowledge, skill, ability and perspective. What if we spent more time thinking about the networks that students are building as they go through their schooling years? What if we made the building of such a network a central part of the curriculum, inviting students to keep a log or journal of their growing network, and how this network is empowering them to learn, how it is expanding their knowledge and perspective? How are they building a meaningful network? Students can interview people around the world, tutor and be tutored, take part in formal and informal learning communities, take part in Twitter chats and Hangouts, learn from and engage in the blogosphere, experience the power of working on a meaningful project in a distributed/virtual team, participate in a massive open online course (or design and teach one), share resources through social bookmarking and other technologies, host and take part in webinars, and build new online and blended learning communities around topics of personal value, need, and interest. Over time, the students may not only build a personal learning network, but also venture into starting their own personal teaching networks, being agents of change and positive influence in the digital world and beyond (Helping Students Develop Personal Learning Networks).

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

December 9, 2012 at 7:07 pm

7 Responses

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  1. […] really like this quote and visual from Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D. and her recent post titled, Information Abundance and Its Implications for Education. Take a moment to reflect on these words…. I don’t think we in education really […]

    Working at the edge

    December 10, 2012 at 1:11 am

    • Thanks for the post, Randy! Really appreciate your comment, “I don’t think we in education really understand the world we live in and how we need to change our response to it.”

      Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

      December 10, 2012 at 1:15 am

  2. Education has been characterized by pedagogies of scarcity but now we need pedagogies of abundance –


    January 1, 2013 at 1:47 am

  3. I think all the components you’ve identified are necessary for information literacy, but I think competence in personal knowledge management is becoming critical. I also believe we need to pay more explicit attention to the personal dimensions of knowledge management. I’m now on m y second career, as an academic librarian; in my first career, I was in a job where an estimated 100,000 pages of working papers, memos, reports,etc. crossed the average professional employees desk every year -and that was pre-open Internet. I am some librarian colleagues are looking more systematically at how we can support students and professors both through becoming proficient with tools for consolidating academically relevant information, analyzing it, making sense of it, transforming it into new knowledge, and ultimately sharing that new knowledge.

    Elisabeth Shields

    January 11, 2013 at 12:24 am

  4. […] have been taught, more available information does not always translate to more informed decisions. Alvin Toffler, former associate editor of Fortune magazine explains, “Information overload occurs when the amount of input to a system exceeds its processing […]

  5. Love the post, Jackie. We are in a strange period of upheaval and adjustment. Most if not all the old filters and mechanisms for dealing with the amount of information are not much use to us anymore. For example, we got a bit spoiled and perhaps fooled into thinking that we could rely on fair or unbiased news reporting. Yet the truth is that that never was really the case – maybe ever. We have always had to be readers and editors perforce of the world in which we live. The challenges of the present are resounding reminders of this fact. I am inclined to go with you and Wineberger on this.

    Fred Haas - akh003

    January 23, 2013 at 11:53 pm

    • Thanks, Fred! I think the key here is “Yet the truth is that that never was really the case – maybe ever.” I have a similar argument about Wikipedia v. textbooks. Folks don’t realize that textbooks are written by a few authors and have biases built in. I agree we live in interesting times – I love it!

      Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

      January 24, 2013 at 3:57 am

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