Information Bias in Social Media

Photograph of a skeptical young man.I am enrolled in a refresher course on critical thinking and philosophy. I have been studying knowledge and particularly skepticism as it relates to knowledge. In applying these concepts, I realize that I need a healthy dose of skepticism when consuming social network news. Recent reports suggest that fake new sites on social networks and search sites could even have swayed the U.S. election. This news has spread over the last couple of weeks so I want to explore our personal responsibility for critiquing news and social network feeds and determining whether we are getting the full picture or whether we have customized the information we receive to fit our worldview.

Strength of Networks

There has been a visceral reaction to the U.S. presidential election with many people publicly expressing shock and joining in protests in cities in America. According to their network, their candidate should have had a clear path to the nomination. The problem is that we have intentionally and unintentionally built our social networks to look like us. Intentionally, we connect through our networks with friends and colleagues who share our political and religious views. Our network, and particularly social media newsfeeds, are fed by algorithms built to reinforce that bias, which is unintentional on our part. For example, your news feed on Facebook is influenced by who you are friends with, pages you like, what you post, and how you interact with others in your network. A recent article from Spredfast, a social media marketing firm, said it best: “On social media platforms, the world looks different depending on the candidate that you support.”

Is it True

We create networks of associates that look and think like we do. The news we get matches our biases. The question now is how do we know that the news we are receiving is true. We may read several articles a day but not take the time to consider whether they are factual or even plausible. As I mentioned in my post last week, our move away from deep reading may have left us unable or unwilling to take the time and effort to apply that skeptical filter. Sites such as Facebook and Twitter are reportedly stepping up their efforts to filter fake news feeds but even if they succeed there will still to be a built in bias, fueled by our online behavior.

Thoughts

I am challenging us all to slow down and take in news thoughtfully and skeptically. Challenge the source and ponder the premises and conclusions the author is making. Are they plausible and factual? Are their sources reliable? Are they slanted toward a particular bias or ideology? Does that bias color the actual news that I am getting?

I will strive to be more careful and thoughtful about news I am reading and will try to find articles from trusted foreign news sources as well so I can get a perspective outside of my own normal network. Do you think the U.S. election has been a wake up call to how we view social media in terms of shaping our worldview? Will it change our habits and usage? What would a less biased and more responsible social network look like? I think the responsibility lies with us to find out. Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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The Evolution of the Deep Reading Brain

Image of two human heads on a labyrinth pattern with a laser light connection.I recently attended a lecture on the restoration of the deep reading brain in the digital age. The implication was that in the digital age we no longer read and contemplate deeply but skip from one short article to the next. In other words, we live in a world of sound bites. Studies suggest that our new form of reading and study is actually changing neural connections in our brain. While this may be true, I think we need to understand whether this is a bad development or just part of our continued human evolution.

Deep Reading Brain

Maryanne Wolf, author of “Proust and the Squid,” coined the phrase deep reading brain. Deep reading is the process of sustained study and concentration, but more importantly it is associated with the ability to connect reading to other ideas in order to create unique thoughts. Shallow reading, on the other hand, is cast in a bad light as not promoting further understanding but merely informing about news or information. Some authors link the shift to shallow reading to the proliferation of digital devices and particularly handheld devices. This does not take into account the fact that we have a lot more information available to us than in the past, and it is available in a format that does not require us to sit down and actually read a paper book. Does the potential loss of a deep reading brain jeopardize other areas of our thinking?

Socrates and the Written Word

Is the concern about a shift from a deep reading brain a problem unique to us? The short answer is no. As humans, we have only been reading and writing for the last 5,500 years. Before that we communicated verbally in order to exchange information and record history. During the last transition, Socrates is reported to have expressed concern about the new written word of his day in an account from Plato. He was worried that young people would think that knowledge was now all recorded and required no further pursuit or contemplation. Does this sound like a familiar argument? To quote French critic Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Thoughts

Aristotle writes about three lives that we should lead, the highest being a life of study and contemplation. Some argue that we now lead a distracted life instead and cannot slow down long enough to pursue the contemplative life. My purpose for this blog entry is to ask questions. Is this the new reality in our modern day thinking? Is it good, bad, or just different? As we build new neural connections geared towards processing large amounts of information, are we losing the ability for deep thinking and processing or are we building a new and more valuable skill? I would love to get your thoughts and start a dialogue to work through these questions.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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Can Technology Help to Feed the World?

Aerial view of the tractor spraying the chemicals on the large green fieldThe world population is expected to exceed nine billion people by 2050 from an estimated 7.3 billion today, according to various sources. How will we be able to feed all of those extra people? Water is already in short supply so it will be difficult to create additional arable land. Forests around the world are being plowed under to meet this growing need, but in the process we are changing the balance of fragile ecosystems. A National Geographic author asks: How can the world double the availability of food while simultaneously cutting the environmental harm caused by agriculture?

The answer may be farms capable of increasing food production through technology while also reducing their environmental impact.

So Many Cows

Three Mile Canyon Farms in rural Boardman, OR combines a dairy operation with cropland dedicated to potatoes, onions, carrots, and various organic crops. The sheer size of this operation sets it apart from other private or even corporate farms. The entire ranch covers 93,000 acres and houses 24,000 cows that produce 165,000 gallons of milk each day. There are milk trucks lined up 24 hours a day to haul the milk to a nearby cheese processing plant. This farm is set up to be a closed loop system in terms of waste management. The manure is used to fertilize the potatoes and the potato skins and culls from the processing plant are used as feed for the cows. Any excess methane from the waste collection is used to create electricity for the operation. Automated milking machines collect the milk, which is how they are able to run such a large operation. The water for the potatoes and other crops comes from the nearby Columbia river but is used judiciously by employing computerized hydrology maps, which I wrote about in a recent blog. The farm has set aside 23,000 acres as a preserve for wildlife and endangered plant species. They are trying to reach a balance of feeding an increasing population while still being good stewards of the land and environment.

The Science of Crop Production

Another technology that is available is the controversial genetically modified organism or GMO. These modified seeds can achieve increased yield through built in drought or pesticide resistance. The manufacturer often controls the seed so it may not be widely available or affordable for emerging nations. The controversy surrounding GMO is that there are many unknowns. How will the genetic modifications affect the health of the consumer in this generation or in generations to come? How do we keep GMO seeds in one field from cross-pollinating with non-GMO seeds in another field? Will crops from GMO seeds have the same nutritional value as their unaltered counterparts? As with any new technology, there are initial barriers, but GMO is one potential solution for feeding a growing population.

Low Tech Solutions

In a Nature Journal article earlier this year the authors compared yields between organic crops and those raised with chemical fertilizers and pesticides.  Studies show a consistently lower yield for organic crops but when grown in drought conditions, the organic crops came out on top. This is due to the fact that non-chemically treated soils better retain moisture. Organic farming is potentially one piece of the puzzle for feeding a growing population.

Thoughts

Eighteenth century cleric and philosopher Thomas Malthus suggested in his book “An Essay on the Principle of Population” that prosperity would bring about population growth but that growth cycle was not sustainable and would eventually end in famine and starvation. It remains to be seen whether technology will help us forestall his predictions or whether his ideas are no longer valid. It is certain that we will need to produce more food for a growing population and technology is one way of achieving that. Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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Geek Gifts for the Holidays

Hand emerging from laptop, holding wrapped gift.I am compiling my gift list for the upcoming holiday season and paying particular attention to my tech friends. New devices are being developed to provide comfort, efficiency, or just plain fun. What would be the perfect gift for my geek friends?

Smart Devices For A Smart Home

Google introduced Home last week, just in time for the holidays. It is similar to Amazon Echo as a home device that accepts voice commands and can queue up a music play list, answer questions or interact with other smart devices in the home. It is basically a voice activated internet device that is paired with home wifi to connect to cloud storage or various web sites to check weather, traffic, answer trivia questions, or activate audio from sites such as Spotify or Pandora.

Home can be paired with Nest products which are home control devices. Nest, like Google, is a subsidiary of Alphabet so devices are compatible. The internet connected Nest Learning Thermostat replaces a traditional home thermostat and can maximize energy efficiency and comfort at the same time. Indoor and outdoor cameras can also be integrated into the home system to be controlled via an app while away or Google Home while in the house. OK, Google, it’s cold in here, and what is that noise outside?

You can go one step further this holiday and add TP-Link Smart Light Bulbs to your home system. These are wifi LED dimmable bulbs that you can operate via a smartphone app, Amazon Echo and presumably the new Home. Check to make sure your lights are turned off or turn them on remotely to greet you upon return. You can also establish a timed schedule. Home automation devices have come a long way to ensure security and comfort during the holidays and the rest of the year.

Just For Fun

For the geek on your gift list there are some fun new toys. Nanotips makes a conductive paint you can apply to the fingertips of your favorite gloves so you can operate smartphones and tablets without exposing your hands. This would be great for my ski, motorcycle or biking gloves, but I still need to figure out how to make a sharper fingertip so that I can text.

The Tap A Tune Musical Gloves sound like a lot of fun. These are musical gloves that play like a piano on any surface. There are sensors in the fingertips that are fed back to the speaker/controller so you can practice the piano or compose a new tune anywhere.

Finally, for the geek on your list who also happens to be a Harry Potter fan there is the Kymera Magic Wand Universal Control. It works through gestures instead of boring buttons and provides haptic feedback so you know whether you are casting the right spell or changing the channel up or down.

Thoughts

Technology is constantly evolving and entrepreneurs are innovating exciting designs they hope will enhance our lives. Some are practical and some are just for fun. There are many products to help automate our lives and some to bring a smile or a laugh. What are you going to get the geek on your holiday list? Let me know of great potential gifts you have found.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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City as a Service: The Future of Urban Transportation

Model of a smart city resting atop a computer tablet.Anheuser-Busch just made the first ever beer run in a self-driving truck. The truck delivered 51,744 cans of beer from Ft. Collins, CO to Colorado Springs, CO while the driver monitored the trip from the sleeper cab, at least on the Interstate 25 portion of the ride. The historic delivery was made by Otto, the trucking arm of rideshare company Uber, partly to showcase their capabilities and partly to deliver beer. The inaugural run had the full backing and blessings of the state of Colorado.

I have written about autonomous passenger vehicles and recently wrote about the development of flying cars. I wonder how these developments will change the landscape of cities. If in the future we just rent cars by the mile to take us to work and back, where will they go at night? Or will the same car be used at night to take us to the theater? Will there need to be as many cars, since people can share them? How will this change how we live? How we think about car ownership and the role of vehicles in a community could change. Just as we have moved to software as a service for our computing needs, we could soon have city as a service for transportation.

The Next 100

BMW just wrapped up a worldwide series of presentations they called the Iconic Impulses Tour. The final show was two weeks ago in Santa Monica, CA and highlighted their vision for BMW’s next 100 years. In addition to introducing new concept cars from Mini, BMW, and Rolls-Royce they are rolling out their vision of how these cars will fit into a new urban environment. To this end, BMW/Mini has created a venture accelerator called URBAN-X to encourage entrepreneurs to help develop their vision.

URBAN-X

The mission of this new venture is “to catalyze, educate, invest in and advocate for startups who are shaping the future of cities through technology.” I assume they are hoping that future includes vehicles, however they are encouraging forward thinking about all aspects of the urban experience. If you are a successful applicant, you get $60,000 in seed money and access to hosting, legal consultation and proprietary software. You also get a chance to spend three months with business developers and engineers from Mini to help bring your idea to fruition. Some of their recent ventures include Brooklyness which makes an intelligent bike helmet, CTY which creates data analytics products for traffic flow, and Nello which makes keyless entry products though a smartphone app. The application deadline to join the next group of lucky entrepreneurs is November 29th,  details at urban-x.com.

Thoughts

I am impressed that an automobile company is thinking ahead to a time when there are fewer cars and limited private car ownership. I assume that the car companies will own the vehicles and make money through subscription services, like today’s cloud service providers. With this scenario, the city will indeed look different and perhaps we can convert at least some city parking to green space and make other improvements. What ideas do you have for the future cityscape? Perhaps your idea is worthy enough to attract funding from a car company. Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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Blurring the Boundaries Between Work and Vacation

Image of day planner with work x-ed out and "day off" written in.I was recently at a car museum full of beautiful automobiles from the last 100 plus years. In one of the exhibits I noticed a gentleman on his cell phone conducting what sounded like a business conference. If he had a family with him, they had already moved on to another hall. I thought about that. Amongst all of these fantastic cars, he saw the need to divert his focus. Was he multi-tasking or was he truly missing out on the opportunity that surrounded him? I wonder if we haven’t blurred the lines between work and non-work until they are undistinguishable.

Two Weeks to Infinity

A number of companies, mostly high tech giants like Netflix, have introduced unlimited vacation time. Software developer Hubspot, has gone one step further and coined their vacation policy “two weeks to infinity,” which means they encourage their employees to take at least two weeks off each year, more if necessary. Software maker Buffer takes it one more step by offering employees $1,000 to actually use their vacation time. In other words, the company is paying employees to make use of a benefit they already have. No wonder we’re so tired.

The caveat behind most if not all of the unlimited vacation policies is the unspoken phrase “as long as you get all of your work done.” In a Harvard Business Review article last year the author argued that whether an unlimited vacation policy succeeds or not depends on trust within the company. Some companies have found that an unlimited vacation time policy actually resulted in employees taking fewer vacation days because they feel pressure to work more without the traditional boundaries. The Tribune, publisher of the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times, rescinded their unlimited vacation policy in 2014 just a week after implementing it. With no vacation bank employees could no longer cash out their saved vacation hours when leaving the company, which turned out to be a coveted perk. Workers preferred the cash to the vacation. It can be hard to keep up with work, and vacation time suffers.

There’s an App for That

While we need an incentive or a reconstructed vacation policy in order to actually take time off, we also have more tools for conducting business while away from the office. Tools such as WhatsApp, Cisco Spark, and Facebook Messenger allow people to receive e-mails, texts or video communication on any device. Some of these apps also provide for screen sharing. They make use of the cloud by providing dedicated rooms for conversations and document sharing. At the same time, security is also important, often through message encryption. So, now we are afraid to take vacation in case we get behind in our work and even when we do take vacation, we are accessible to colleagues back at the office. If we are never offline, is it really a vacation? Is this the new norm?

Thoughts

I would love to hear your thoughts on the value of time off. Does a working vacation provide the same recharge as one where you are completely unplugged? Is the idea of “time off” going to go the way of the flip phone now that lines are blurring between work and non-work? Perhaps we need a new definition of work? Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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Flying Cars: The Future Is Now

Image of bright yellow flying car taxi.As I was driving in congested freeway traffic last weekend I realized that one of the benefits of autonomous or self-driving vehicles is they won’t have to slow down to gawk at accidents. Eliminating that human impulse alone should help smooth traffic flow. I have been thinking so much lately about autonomous vehicles that I was unaware of the development of other new types of cars until a colleague prompted me to take a closer look at flying cars. What I found just might send me to my local airport for flight lessons.

Flying Car School

The first flying car school in North America recently opened in Roosevelt, Utah. Students will learn in the PAL-V Liberty which is produced by Dutch company PAL-V. This particular vehicle can drive on a city street and then go airborne after taxiing down a short road or runway. The company is securing FAA and European approval to introduce the first commercial version in 2018. Flying one will require a full pilot’s license because of the weight of the vehicle. A thrust engine powers the flying car, along with gyro blades that help with lift and to keep it airborne. Once on the ground, the blades and rudder fold up so that it can navigate city streets and highways.

I am not sure of the maximum distance this flying car can travel on one tank of gas, either on the ground or in the air, but I am starting to think about personal applications of this technology. It would be nice to reach a rural site without having to navigate miles of gravel roads. You could also shorten a city commute considerably if you could take off from the road in front of your house and land in front of your office.

Options

Another flying car in testing or limited production is the AeroMobil, based out of the Czech Republic. They have been flying/driving prototypes since 2014 and are close to introducing a production model. Another option is the Terrafugia Transition which is being developed by a private company out of Woburn, MA. The company expects the first production vehicle in 2019. The Transition is described as a folding-wing, two seat, roadable aircraft. Even more exciting is the Terrafugia TF-X, which is billed as a four seat plug-in/hybrid electric flying car with vertical take off and landing capability and computer controlled flight. It is not expected to come to market until 2023 at the earliest.

Infrastructure

I am very excited about the possibility of flying cars in the near future, but there are a lot of infrastructure questions still to be answered. First of all, what classification are they given by the various world flight administrations? Are they airplanes or sport aircraft? Flight certification and licenses are different for each. At what elevation do they fly? Just above the ground or at 1000 feet? Are there particular areas that will be set aside for takeoff and landing, or can you launch anywhere? Will you have to check in with the nearest control tower before leaving for the office? These and many more questions require answers before we can start flying to work. I am hoping that brilliant minds are working on these issues so that the infrastructure is ready when the first cars are launched.

Thoughts

“The Jetsons” and “Back To The Future” have formed my view of the flying car. In both of those depictions, vehicles traveled in lanes in the air, just as we do on the ground. I think we can get more creative than that but it will take a lot of thought to make personal air travel safe and feasible. I am already thinking about the combination of flying cars and autonomous vehicles. That would be the ultimate in efficiency and convenience.

Are we ready for flying cars? They appear to be coming soon to a road or grassy field near you. Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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Data Nationalization: Drawing Borders in the Cloud

Photo of clouds forming map of the world.Moscow, Russia city government last week announced that they will move 6,000 government computers off of Microsoft Outlook to a Russian-produced application called MyOffice Mail. If successful, they will move 600,000 more systems next year. Cost savings is cited as one reason for the migration but nationalism is also a big factor. In an interview, Communications Minister Nikolay Nikiforov told reporters “We want the money of taxpayers and state-run firms to be primarily spent on local software.” The Russian prime minister has called for a migration away from foreign software out of security concerns over tensions with the west. Russia is not the only nation and Moscow is not the only city to move in this direction.

The internet was meant to be global but from recent announcements and actions it appears we are drawing borders in the cloud. This post is an update to a 2014 post highlighting the beginning of this movement. From recent developments it appears the trend is accelerating.

LiMux—The IT Revolution

Munich also moved to a proprietary platform in October 2013 when they finished the rollout of LiMux, a version of Ubuntu Linux. The almost decade long migration off of older Microsoft systems and applications was marked by the rallying cry “The IT Revolution.” That migration was about cost containment and control. They felt that they could not regulate the pace of required operating system and application updates. The jury is still out on whether this move delivered the intended benefits for the city or whether it has created a bigger headache for the technology department as they deal with compatibility issues. This is an example of reigning in control of technology and storage as traditional vendors move to cloud based systems such as Office 365.

 Legal Boundaries

Russia’s data nationalization law requires all personal data about citizens be stored and processed on servers inside Russia. The routing of such data is a point not completely worked out yet. That may be much harder to keep within the borders. Australia has a similar law specifically covering electronic health records of citizens and their storage and transport.

In a 2015 paper published in the Emory Law Journal, the authors highlight a number of countries that implemented regulations to restrict the storage and movement of data inside and outside of borders. Some of these were a reaction to the 2013 NSA surveillance revelations concerning data collection on countries and heads of state. Countries are moving to protect their citizens by regulating at least their portion of the cloud. This will most likely escalate and present difficulties for internet companies large and small.

Thoughts

My objective in this post is to speculate on the future of the cloud. We already have a private cloud and public cloud and now a hybrid cloud. Will these be followed by a Russian cloud, and a Chinese cloud and a U.S. cloud? Will that hamper the open nature of the internet or will it simply serve to provide information security for each nation, state, or municipality just as physical borders provide personal safety? Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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The Data and Science of Irrigation

Photo of pivot irrigation system.I recently spent time among wheat fields and continue to be amazed at the advances in farming, particularly irrigation. I have moved a few irrigation pipes in my life, but my experience is a far cry from the automated precision technology used today. I set out to find out how technology and water mix and how the combination enhances crop production.

Crop Metrics

I have covered farm technologies in past blogs, specifically soil moisture probes. The use of these probes is only the beginning of the process for increasing crop yield. Several of these probes can be used per acre to collect data wirelessly on the moisture content in a particular area of the field. All of this data is combined into a visual map that shows the dry and wet spots. Topographic maps can be added to show the high and low spots of a field. All of this data acts as input to the irrigation system. Companies such as CropMetrics analyze all of these data points and create a comprehensive plan for covering the most ground with the least amount of water.

Precision Watering

Crop irrigation has evolved from a hose to hand lines to wheel lines to the modern pivot. A pivot pumps water through one point to several sprinklers radiating out from the axis. The pivot then swings across the field powered by a variable speed drive mechanism on each tower. The further the distance from the pivot point, the faster the wheels have to move in order to cover a larger arc. If you have ever flown over the Midwest in the summer you have most likely seen a grid of green circles, which is the result of pivot irrigation. One of the largest of these sprinklers is 1300 meters long, covering over 1300 acres of sugar plantation in Brazil.

Companies such as Lindsay and Reinke have transformed simple plant watering to a science by applying data analysis technology. They input the data mentioned earlier and create a series of water maps for a field. The GPS equipped irrigation pivot can then apply precisely targeted moisture to the field. Over an area of several hundred acres, there can be a lot of variability in soil type, existing moisture, runoff, and terrain. All of this information is factored in when watering the crops. The sprinklers can be automated, or adjusted manually through a touchscreen control or  an app. The goal is twofold: water conservation and maximum yield. This is one example of how technology is improving production while enhancing sustainability of a limited resource.

Thoughts

I see technology used in traditionally low tech areas such as irrigation and crop production and wonder what other applications are waiting to be enhanced or automated. It is a brave new world and it will take intelligent workers to make the most of it. Let me know your thoughts

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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Trends in Education: Information Availability

Adult students in a classroom.I have been thinking about changes in education. Some are due to technology advancements, but some are from social changes as we discover new ways of teaching and learning.  This blog post will explore some of those trends and how we might take advantage of shifts to improve higher education.

Information At Your Fingertips

Scott Miller, PhD, president of Wesleyan College, said in an article: “Some faculty voice concerns that the prevalence of information has negated the inclination to learn it.” Some may see improved information access as a threat to their teaching but I think we can use it to our advantage to improve the learning process. I liken this new information availability to the introduction of the printing press. Before then, students relied primarily on their instructors who could read the few texts that were available. Teachers guarded the writings so they alone could dispense knowledge. Written texts were laboriously copied by hand. After the advent of printing, there were more texts available so the general population could learn to read and could synthesize the information for themselves and draw their own conclusions.

In 2016, information is available at our fingertips through smart devices and the internet. My students and I have access to the same information, so my responsibility is to create the learning space and pose questions that will prompt further learning. We share the task of gathering information so that we can synthesize it through discussions into knowledge or even wisdom. Rather than feeling threatened by this, I believe it frees us to focus on ideas and insights.

Experiential Learning

Some disciplines still require experience to fully synthesize information into understanding. Chemistry students can read about the reaction of two mixed chemicals but it’s not the same as personally experiencing the outcome. Civil engineering students can read about load calculations and design principles but until they experiment with models and see the resulting success or failure, do they really understand the principles and can they apply them to real designs? Disciplines that require experiential learning will still need a classroom with the materials to experiment with. But are there other ways to augment classroom learning?

Many employers have onboarding programs to welcome and train new employees. Some of these programs are extensive, lasting weeks, if not months. Would it not be more efficient to shorten the onboarding process and instead bring students in earlier as part of a hands-on expanded internship?  I believe that since we now have so much valuable information available to students and faculty, we can be much more efficient in how we use that information. With the time created by that efficiency, students should be able to apply that knowledge in a real world setting. Students would win valuable experience and potential employers could hire employees with advanced thinking skills and practical experience.

Thoughts

We can take advantage of greater information access by making learning more efficient and effective. At the same time, students take a greater part in their learning and can apply that experience to a successful career. Those are my thoughts but I would love to hear from you.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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