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My Extrapolations from a Washington Post Graphic

Click to link to the original Washington Post graphic

In 1986, I was the director of instructional technology in a rural school district in North Carolina, a job that hadn’t existed when I’d started teaching only 10 years earlier. Thanks to researchers at the University of Southern California, we now know something about the state of technology ten years into my career.

For instance, In 1986, 41% of the world’s computer processing power was in pocket calculators. Personal computers made up 33%, with 17% going to servers and mainframes. A whopping 9% powered video game consoles. According to that study things had changed dramatically by 2007. The amount of the world’s processing power residing in personal computers had doubled, to 66% and calculators had disappeared from the picture. Video games accounted for 25% of the processing power and new comers, mobile phones and PDA (which didn’t exist when I was director of technology), held 6% of the world’s computing power. Servers and mainframes dropped to 3% and supercomputer weighed in at 0.3%.

But the real sign of change is in information. Back in 1986, the world held 2.64 billion gigabytes of information — and 2.62 of them resided on analog media (paper, film, audiotape and vinyl and videotape.) The growth of information soured over the next 16 years, when, in 2002, the amount of digital content exceeded the information we stored with analog technologies.

By 2007, our quantity of information had risen to 294.98 billion exabytes of information, and only just less than 19 of them still resided on analog media. If you took only the paper — and film, audiotape and vinyl used to store information today, it would account for only 0.004% of the world’s content. That means that anyone, whose schooling and experience has not included the skilled, responsible and practiced use of contemporary information and communication technologies, well for more than 99.6% of the worlds information, they are practically illiterate!

What it means to be educated has been flipped on it’s side!


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  • Grant Taylor

    I often comment that teaching as a “one who knows to one who doesn’t” process is done. We need to be a “let me help you find out” profession.

    (And I hope you meant soared, not soured. :) )

  • http://oldcoloradonews.wordpress.com/ Jude

    For me, the story goes something like this. My brother (and Bill Gates) built a computer from a kit purchased from the back of Popular Electronics magazine in roughly 1979. It had 4K of memory. When I bought my first PC, a Kaypro,it had 128K, I think. Six months later, my brother bought one for less money with 256K of memory. When my teenage sons were little, I purchased an HP PC with 30MB of memory. The salesman tried to dissuade me, saying, “I can’t imagine anyone ever needing 30MB.” I knew he was crazy, because I really wanted the most available–40MB, but I couldn’t afford it. Two days ago, we installed a computer for my 81-year-old mother which had 4GB of memory (6GB was available, but she really didn’t need that much memory).

  • Jill H

    This is a great illustration of the need for change. I am so disappointed that my district is still planning the adoption of social studies textbooks for this spring. Just think how outdate that analog media is going to be! ::Heavy Sigh::

  • Tony Searl

    Maybe what it means to be educated has been ‘flipped upside down and shaken all about’ would be more accurate.

    Who is doing what with linked data exhausts? The exabyte content you quote is mere window dressing on the production rate of new digital trails.

    Currently unlinked (maybe the next internet will solve that) it is interesting to note recent aggressive educational acquisitions creating a rapid rise of company access to scaled educational data.

    Accumulated big data is back end currency once mined, washed, analysed and repurposed, increasingly in real time. Socially its been done, SEO its been done, retail decisions its been done, now education, and maybe learning, is lining up for her turn to get analysed in a whole new way. Not saying I subscribe to the inevitable as I have many reservations, not least of which are ethical/privacy concerns and trusting machine driven decision making in an inherantly human field.

    Extracting value will improve commensurate to size of raw materials either owned outright and/or semantically linked. Who now has the rights to your exabytes counts more than ever. Whoever has the best linked access to the biggest bytes will have a considerable advantage.

  • http://www.leaderpharma.com/melatonine.html Leader

    Very interesting graphic! Thanks for sharing :)

Photo taken by Ewan McIntosh in a Taxi in Shanghai

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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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