Informationholic vs Informationitis

Came across to terms today as I was contemplating the state of “Information Technology” and our “Information Age”. And it makes me wonder if our collective obsession with this thing we refer to as “information” is an addiction or a disease. And according to Chuck Hollis, some think it is a trait. 🙂

Addiction? [from a previous comment]

Disease?

  • Loved how Josh Mayer handled it in his two posts (1,2) (and the interaction with Chuck Hollis)

I am going to posit that we have a societal, and perhaps a generational, problem of communication. For starters, we don’t quite know what “information” really is. Is it data? Is it a facebook status update? Is it old, is it new, is it anything written, spoken or typed? The combination of a ubiquitous and popular decentralized platform with unparalleled freedom (the internet) and unequal access to the same has given birth to a myriad of conflicting expectations and practices.

Say I am having a party next week. If I make a twitter update, create a facebook event and put an add in the paper, it is entirely possible my neighbor might never learn of it. And if my neighbor, after seeing all the people at my house and feeling left out, calls his friends, emails other neighbors and goes on TV to complain, I might never learn about my neighbor’s hurt feelings. Crazy, isn’t it?

And no, we are not having a party next week. At least, not that I know of.

What in the world does this have to do with Unit 4? Ahh… I see you have been waiting for that connection.

With respects to Josh Mayer and Chuck Hollis, what is a reasonable expectation for how a school district should manage information? There are people like me who expect way too much (in my own opinion) – we want to find EVERYTHING online. If it ain’t in google, it don’t exist. But then there are folks who are essentially not online; they do not have to like killing trees, just maybe they don’t see the value in or maybe do not have access to online information. And then we have everyone in-between. Such a wide variety.

As stated previously, we have a lot of disengaged people. Not just in the context of education, but in the larger context of politics and even national affairs. Or perhaps it would be more fair to say that people have carved out a niche that defines their engagement (and thus defines their identity in the process, which so many are looking for) – it is not so much that your average joe is completely disengaged. I wonder if we expect everyone else to … well, be like us. 🙂

We have information overload. Sensory overload. It is as if technology has speed forward ahead of our ability to handle the ramifications.

And the bottomline is I wonder if we should try to scrape away the layers of “stuff” and try to uncover what it is that we really want education to do. What do we want our society to “do”?

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4 Responses to “Informationholic vs Informationitis”

  1. Laura B. Says:

    Librarians are informationists (or at least some of them are). Particularly as described by Chuck in his comment:

    ‘I know you’ll find this hard to believe, but I’ve actually met people who self-describe as “informationists”. They see themselves as policy leaders in large, information-centric organizations trying to fill the gap between the business’ aggregate information needs, and the project-orientation of IT.”

    I know several corporate librarians who fill that role. In some ways, I fill that role in my organization. And yes, I am a librarian.

    I think your questions at the end are really interesting. The answer seems to be everything. And with few resources. My personal outcome for education is to ensure that kids are developing the critical thinking skills they need to compete and succeed as adults. Teaching to the test, which NCLB encourages, doesn’t develop these skills. I have to give credit to Unit 4’s educators, who (in my experience) are doing an excellent job of that.

    Many kids from Unit 4 are going to go to four-year colleges, but I don’t think we should assume all kids are (nor should they, if they’re not interested). For those who aren’t college-bound, I think we need to make sure they have skills to succeed in whatever they choose to do. That means improving access to vocational/technical education.

    I think that, for my kid, Unit 4 is doing a good job. Then again, I have a kid who is actively engaged in school, loves to learn, and has involved, educated parents. I’m more concerned about the kids whose parents aren’t involved (for whatever reason) and who have disengaged from the learning process. I don’t have solutions, but I really think that the community needs to work to bring everyone along.

  2. charlesdschultz Says:

    Laura,

    It seems to me that the role of librarian has slowly been changing. I knew a librarian at Parkland who was big into MIS (Management Information Systems) and impressed me with his coursework. This goes way beyond knowing the Dewey Decimal system. 🙂 What are your views as to how that gap is filled?

    I totally agree with your statement that overall, Unit 4 is doing a good job. I also am concerned about those for whom the current system is not working well. Your very last sentence (bringing everyone along) is key, in my opinion. This is a question I intend to broach with the Board and Dr. Wiegand. Would you say this is one of the biggest issues? If not, in your opinion what is?

    PS – your url link has a typo. I think you meant http://envnewsbits.wordpress.com/?

  3. pattsi Says:

    Are we certain that we have information technology or data point technology. Just because technology exists to connect and manipulate data points does not necessarily mean that the end result is information. There is much research on this question–even on the internet but without the critical eye of an editor or old time librarian who are there as gate keepers to help make certain that data points turn into valuable information. 🙂

  4. Laura B. Says:

    Librarians understand not only how to find and organize information, but also (or should) how non-technical people find and use information. Programmers/technology geeks sometimes get so wrapped up in the cool new stuff that they use the tool because they can, rather than considering how it should be best deployed (the “when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail” problem). I know librarians who also suffer from that too, but I try to consider how I can use it to make the work of my users (or my work) easier. I also spend a lot of time curating content and putting it in context, which is what I think Pattsi’s referring to. My job is to take data/information and present it so that it becomes knowledge to the person who uses it.

    As for the librarian’s changing role, I think a lot of it has to do with public perception. When most people think of librarians, they see either the stereotype (dowdy lady with glasses and hair in bun who shushes people) or the person who checks out books for them when they visit the library. I had one manager who thought I typed the labels that went on the books (ummm…no. That’s why we have a database. So I can print them out easily). However, I know many librarians, particularly in corporate settings, who have been doing what Chuck Hollis describes as “informationist” activities since the early 1990s.

    Yes, I do think that the District’s ultimate goals should be a community focused on bringing everyone along. Getting there means recognizing that not all kids in Unit 4 schools are going to attend a four year college. However, in order to succeed in the world, those kids still need to have basic literacy, math/money management, and critical thinking skills. I think that the District is making great strides toward serving those kids, but I’m not sure that the community at large always sees the value in those efforts. Or they don’t see how these efforts effect them and their kids. I think it’s hard, particularly when resources are scarce, for people to see beyond “What’s in it for me?”

    Laura B.

    PS Thanks for pointing out the typo. Hopefully, I fixed it.


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