Wednesday, 22 July 2015 11:31

CRITICAL THINKING IN THE INFORMATION AGE: PART 2, INFORMATION OVERLOAD

By: 

With Alvin Toffler’s Third Wave crashing down on us, it is important to take stock of how the world has changed.  The largest change has been in areas of information and media.  The flow and volume of media that now exists in the world is remarkable; more remarkable is the ease in which we can access this information.

I, in my trouser pocket, right now, have a device the size of a cassette tape (a what?) that has 1000 times the computing power than the Apollo 11 lunar module, and that can connect me to the complete sum of human knowledge simply and easily, with the touch of a button.  The amount of information that we all have access to every day is staggering.  Through technology we are all able to access more and more information faster than ever before.

Through video calls, text messages, emails, instant messages, wall posts, likes, pokes, up-votes, tweets, and pings, we are all connected to each other like never before.  It is an amazing time to be alive, and offers new and incredible opportunities that could only exist through this technology.  The communication is a wonderful tool for all of us to improve our lives, but when they are combined with the quickly expanding array of media that we can now access seemingly everywhere, the question has to be asked:  are we spending too much time plugged-in?

Not surprisingly, the group that spends the largest percentage of their day “connected” to media in some way are teenagers and young adults.  Young people between the ages of 15 and 24 years of age encounter an incredible amount of media on a daily basis.

The fact that young people are more connected than ever before is not surprising to anyone who has spent any amount of time with an average teenager.  From an educational standpoint, this level of connectivity is changing the educational landscape.  This doesn’t have to be a bad thing, as it has led to improved development of several critical skills.  Literacy levels are on the rise despite the prevalence of “text-speak”, and students are learning to type earlier than ever. This is all rooted in the fact that so much of young people’s time is now spent plugged-in and online.

Let’s look at some statistics…

  • According to several studies conducted by major universities and, our good friends at Statistics Canada, the average young adult in North America today watches 244 minutes of television per day.
  • He or she listens to 150 minutes of music per day.
  • He or she spends 115 minutes on the internet (40 minutes of which are spent watching videos) per day.
  • He or she spends 75 minutes reading per day.
  • He or she plays 165 minutes of video games per day.
  • He or she spends 240 minutes on their cellphone or other mobile device every single day.

If you add all that up, this means that the average teenager is spending 16.5 hours a day connected to some form of media.  At first glance this seems like an unbelievable amount of time.  16.5 hours is most of the time young people spend awake.    This isn’t quite true.  The information is coming at them, not through one medium at a time, but rather simultaneously.  This means that rather than spending an hour watching TV, then spending an hour on the internet, young people, are more likely to spend an hour watching TV while surfing the internet.

None of the sources can quite agree on the actual amount of time that young people are spending hooked into some form of media, but they are nearly unanimous in their conclusion that they are connected to more media than any other generation before them.

How can someone take in that much media in their day, and be able to identify what is true and what is not?  What skills are we teaching (or not teaching) to our young people that will help them to better understand the quality of the he quantity information they are encountering?  Check back next week as we try and figure it out.

Source: http://enableeducation.com/blog/critical-thinking-in-the-information-age-part-2-information-overload/#.Va84hvmqqko 

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