David Warlick Ryann Warlick Martin Warlick
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The Wrong Message

This is from the hopper, something that I wrote weeks ago, but haven’t gotten around to posting.

FuzzyA couple of weeks ago, I worked a conference in another state. I was fortunate enough to have the time to explore the exhibitors and to attend a number of presentations by some very innovative teachers.

Toward the end of the day, I sat down with one of the exhibitors who was marketing a database service. The attendant immediately began by asking questions about my experience in researching with Google. I knew where he was going so I played along. Then he began to demonstrate some of the “validated” databases of articles, reviews, news, etc. that were available through their service, giving students access to information that they could rely on, because they were written or selected by authoritative sources.

First of all, it was a wonderful product, which I would have in my school. But I wouldn’t sell it as a solution to the Google problem. No Way. The product is being sold on a fallacy that permeates education in my country, that knowledge should be guaranteed, that the knowledge that you gain in school will serve you the rest of your life, and that getting the right knowledge to our children solves their future problems.

OK, this is a simplification of a very complex issue. But, in my humble opinion, anyone who believes that the current knowledge about our physical, social, cultural, and philosophical world that is available in today’s screened databases will serve our children for all the years of their future is not paying attention. Science changes almost daily, as do our perspectives on history, culture, economics, on and on. The skills that our students must be developing are…

  • how to ask the good questions,
  • how to seek the answers in a legitimate and dynamic information environment (the global conversation),
  • how to validate the information by investigating, and
  • then use the information to solve a problem, answer a question, or accomplish a goal.

An organized library of databases is one source. But sometimes, the best answer to a brand new problem may come from something that was said yesterday, by some kid in New Zealand, and finding that potential solution will require dynamic skills, far removed from the operation of a database service.

One other item. I am ashamed to say that it did not occur to me, until the next day, to ask, “How do I know that the sources in the database are authoritative?” In fact, the attendant could probably have shown me an adequate bibliography. But the point is that I didn’t think to ask that question, when this is exactly what we should be teaching our children to do — to ask questions about the answers they find.

2¢ worth!


  • http://cherrieland.blogspot.com cherrie

    I so agree!!!!! Thanks for mentioning New Zealand by the way. =)

  • http://2cents.davidwarlick.com Dave


    New Zealand came to mind because of this youngster I’ve been hearing about, who has come up with some intriguing theory about the quantum world that has physicist all over the world knocking on his door.

    – dave –

  • http://cherrieland.blogspot.com cherrie

    Really? Who is this, I haven’t even seen it on the news or anything…tried to Google, but I musn’t be using the right key words…=( p.s. i’m a student in new zealand, so now i feel IGNORANT…

    Thanks for replying by the way, I never expect a response for some reason =)

  • http://2cents.davidwarlick.com Dave

    The name is Peter Lynds. You can read about him in this recent WIRED magazine article:


    …and here’s his Wikipedia article:


    – dave –

  • http://cherrieland.blogspot.com cherrie

    Hey – thanks for that, I did do some reading on Peter Lynds – funny, I don’t recall ever seeing him on the news or anything and there doesn’t seem to be any recent news from him, but I guess in science everything takes about 20 years for people to notice… but his personal webpage http://www.peterlynds.net.nz has some recent pics of him in various countries, meeting various interesting people…how cool is that…(meanwhile I force myself to stop daydreaming and get back to studying for exams that consist of scantrons and rushed/half-memorised essays). *sarcastic thumbs up*… but then “all” the adults say that apparently college years are some of the best…hmmm… argh, I’m procrastinating. =)

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Cultivating Your Personal Learning Network
2nd Edition (2012)

Redefining Literacy 2.0 (2008)
Classroom Blogging
(2007) • Lulu
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Raw Materials for the Mind

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