On the 6th day of the OOLidays: A scaffolded learning activity for Information Abundance

On the 6th day of the OOLidays: A scaffolded learning activity for Information Abundance

Dave Cormier, Learning Specialist in the Office of Open Learning

Our education systems were founded to solve the problem of information scarcity. When our current educational approaches were designed, information was precious, hard to find and hard to conserve. The challenges we face in our personal and professional lives, now, are less about trying to find one piece of information, but rather to sift between dozens (thousands) of choices for the one that will serve our current situation. 

This is also true for our students.

Teaching for information abundance encourages us to consider how students will find and evaluate information rather than how they will remember the information we choose for them to learn. Dealing with information abundance is difficult in most fields – it needs scaffolding. 

The following activity is designed to demonstrate to our students how we deal with information abundance by sharing our approaches to engaging with controversial academic topics.

  1. Choose a topic that is contested in your field. (the topic I chose for the field of education was ‘Learning Styles’ which is very popular but has many antagonists who believe that it has no scientific basis)
  2. Prepare the students for the discussion. This may include readings about different conceptual elements related to the subject or working on components of the idea.
  3. Do a live exploration of the topic. Break your students into groups and assign each group a slide in a web-based slide deck. Have the students explore the controversial topic using a search engine, AI engine or library search tools. Encourage them to include both positive and negatively phrased search strings. 
  4. Present from the slide deck created by the students, providing your insights.
  5. Have the students choose articles/posts/websites that represent different sides of the issue and examine them. Develop a series of questions that encourage them to use the skills they need to balance perspectives on contested issues eg.
    1. What kind of article is this and what does that mean?
    2. What do we know about the authors?
    3. What do you think the author ‘values’ in the field?

Our students are going to be facing uncertainty in both their professional and personal lives. Activities like this allow us to demonstrate the ways in which we use our own professional judgement to make choices in a world of information abundance.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *