Content as Raw Material

One of the many distinctions that I frequently make in my presentations is a comparison between how my generation views information and my children’s generation.  For us (oldsters), information is a product to be consumed.  We purchase a book so that we can read it, a CD so that we can listen to it, a DVD so that we can watch it.  As I watch my son and daughter in their information experiences, I see that at least part of the value of the content that they use is in what they can do with it — text, video, audio, images, that can be mixed and remixed together to make something new, valuable, or interesting.  For them, information is a raw material.

Tag clouds of Roosevelt and Chruchill speeches
So what story does this comparison tell?
I’m currently preparing for a virtual presentation (10 minutes) that I will be doing with a specific and non-techie audience, about online databases and primary-source content.  My angle will be using the information as a raw material.  I have to confess that anticipating preparations for this presentation have not had me on the edge of my seat.  I continue to dread virtual events.  I’m an eye-contact guy.  But as I have gotten into it, I am starting to get kind of excited about it. 

Think about taking Roosevelt’s Day in Infamy speach and running it through a tagcloud generator, and then laying that next to Churchill’s Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat speech.  Or annotating paragraphs of The Federalist Papers using Diigo, and then inviting students to turn those paragraphs into meeting places to discuss their import.  Or taking a painting of a famous American Civil War battle, and then zooming in to specific spots, moving around, and telling a story about the battle, the war, the times — ala Ken Burns.  Or creating collages of Civil War era portrait photographs, and asking students to look into the eyes of history — and tell their story.

Not just learning the information —

But working it!

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Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.