Is it acceptable for a student of the Social Sciences to progress through his/her study without once citing a source found outside of the Library? If the education we provide is with the goal to create knowledge workers who can engage in a career in the current landscape of information and communication technologies, then I would conclude it is unacceptable.
Teaching academic digital literacy is not only with the purpose to increases students chances of contributing significantly as professionals, but also to protect them from information overload which in the worst case scenario can lead to a burn-out.
As a university lecturer once explained “People don’t say explicitly ‘have you heard, so-and-so has a burn-out’. All they need to say is “so-and-so doesn’t answer his email anymore…’”.
Knowledge workers need to master information management skills to make effective and efficient professionals. When your main capital is knowledge, and this knowledge has a shelf life of 5-10 years (maybe less by now), it is crucial you possess skills to keep updating your main capital. In the recent past one of the main challenges was access to the right information. A hierarchical world pre-determined for a large part what your path in life would be. Financial means determined if you would have access to the better schools and hence better jobs.
In today’s increasingly flat world, access is increasing. The rise of open access content and open educational resources is an example of this (The Power of Open: over 400 million CC-licensed works, with increasing freedom), as is MITs recent completely open access AND accredited courses online. Today the challenge is no longer access, but 1) discerning which information is relevant, and 2) accessing it in an efficient way.
Let your social network do the filtering and curation
One of the most effective ways to access relevant information, is to let your social network do it for you. Imagine the effect of choosing your network of ‘friends’ on Facebook based on professional interests. As well as the people you follow on twitter. The result would be a social filter on either the mass of information available, or a star team of curators gathering and republishing information on a scarce topic.
- The one who can google (notice, it has become a verb) better than his colleague, is more empowered.
- The one who uses google alerts and streams these to his/her feed reader is even more empowered.
- The one who is networked with others who do similar information curation, is most empowered.