The Importance of Foundational Knowledge in a Digital Age


Submitted 5 months ago
Created by
Brad Choyt
It is easy to forget that the technology for disassembling information and reassembling it somewhere else has only been widely used over the last two decades. Language such as “revolutionary” and “transformational” often describes today’s access to the vast amounts of information we now have access to as a result of the Internet. And no matter what we study or the profession we practice, it’s clear these terms are not exaggerations. The architecture that allows billions of people to Google any fact at any time affects the deepest levels of how we learn and how we think. But what this technology does--the lasting impact it will have on our lives, culture, and history--is still unfolding even while it shapes our outlooks, values, and states of being. 

There are endless theories for the way the current generation of students will transform and adapt as they grow up in a world that has only known today’s hyperconnectivity. As they prepare for what comes next, some estimates predict nearly 50 percent of current jobs will disappear before current students reach their thirtieth birthday. Others, no doubt, will emerge along with new trends for what is important. Geographic location will matter less and response time more. And many other sets of skills will carry different weight. For example, I believe an ability to collaborate and have empathy for others who may live on opposite sides of the globe will have more importance. And of course, the fluidity with which future generations will adapt to the latest ways of gathering, compiling, and utilizing information will be more essential than ever.  

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For these reasons, the Internet’s impact on education often feels like a moving target for the teachers who design and implement curriculum with the goal of preparing students to actively contribute to intellectual, cultural, and civic life. What appears to be vital material to cover today may seem obsolete tomorrow. But as fewer and fewer students master a core set of knowledge required to understand and interpret the vast amounts of information that’s available at the next tap on their screen, I believe a foundation of information will be more important than ever. This fact is particularly true as fake news becomes increasingly common, and society will depend upon people who can discern the facts from fiction to make informed decisions that will hopefully have positive, long-term consequences. As I often say, it is both an incredibly exciting and challenging time to be in the field of education. The stakes have never been higher.  

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