My last post was about how students often have very little time. But thinking about the way we consume information in general these days got me thinking more about my personal experiences. I often catch myself with a dozen tabs in Firefox open, Tweetdeck running in the background, Outlook pinging me every few minutes with a new email, and my Blackberry constantly vying for attention. I do find about all sorts of interesting things (like the Leonid meteor shower which I took time to watch this morning), but what is getting one bit of information after another really doing for me?
Students consume information in much the same way, getting updates from Facebook or Twitter, reading stories or blog posts but not digging much deeper. Nicholas Carr compared it to flying along the surface on a jet ski as opposed to a scuba diver exploring what is beneath the surface.
It seems to me that there is much to be gained from slowing down in our information consumption. When we just skip from blog post to blog post, tweet to tweet, we get information, but it never becomes knowledge and we don’t use that information. That’s one reason why I blog, so I can synthesize different thoughts and make a personal connection. Thinking about something and then writing about it makes it more concrete. That’s also why I find it necessary to take time out when I’m feeling overwhelmed and simply drink some tea, or write ideas down in a notebook, or watch a meteor shower.
Slowing down allows you to make connections between those eight articles you just read in your feed reader. It allows you to internalize pieces of information that you otherwise might simply forget or not really understand. That’s why in our information literacy program at Champlain we devote part of one session to talking about slowing down and reflecting. We ask students how or if they slow down to make connections. I feel it is something that is extremely important to discuss when talking about information.
Students are actually pretty thoughtful about it too. I learned about this enlightening TED talk called In Praise of Slowness by Carl Honore from a student in one of my sessions. It’s about 20 minutes long. Give it a watch…if you have the time…
Can’t see the video? Click here.