While reading David Shenk’s article on “Data Smog”, it occurred to me there was one aspect of information literacy he didn’t address; pace. It is accurate to describe the access to data students have today as unprecedented. Most school age children have a treasure trove of information at their fingertips within seconds no matter where they physically are. The explosion of internet access through smart phones literally allows a student to research any topic from anywhere at any time. The internet has become their library and it is always open. One problem with this is there is no librarian to guide them or teacher to direct them or parent to caution them.
Students have the ability to get the data they need within seconds now where just a decade ago the time frame was substantially longer. With this rapid information reaping capability, students rarely bother to double check sources or think through the answers they have acquired. They are satisfied with simply getting the answer quickly and moving on to the next task without ever slowing down to analyze their solution.
Internet based social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are also contributing to this rapid, no thought process, reactionary driven pace of information, becoming the norm. School aged kids today can get an answer to a personal question or the details of any social situation within seconds. Social drama now plays out at the speed of light over wireless connections and conversations that were oral just a few years ago are now done via text in 140 characters or less. Basically, this means a person can speak their mind over a social media app using their thumbs instead of their voice. Have you ever spoken to someone without thinking first? Just reacted and let your first thought fly out of your mouth. We all have. Today, kids put their foot in their mouths without ever having to open them.
If students are taught to pace their acquisition of data and slow their use of it then their level of information literacy will go up. Instead of only relying on Wikipedia for research, perhaps they will find a second and third source to back up or disprove the “facts”. And instead of immediately Tweeting or texting, they will think through their comment and pause before hitting send. Maybe they won’t send it at all.