The Obsolete Know-It-All?

Ken Jennings, the famous Jeopardy champion who in 2004 won more than $2.5 million as he won 74 consecutive episodes, gave an interesting TED talk earlier this year in which he asserts that humans’ need to know Jeopardy-like factoids is essentially obsolete.  In 2011, Jennings famously lost an exhibition Jeopardy match against IBM’s Watson supercomputer.

So how does this apply to us in elementary education?  Is it really true that knowledge is no longer important?  We’ve always known that Google is the best place to search for anything from cats making crazy faces to articles containing certain keywords, but what does it mean for the future of schooling when computers are also more capable at answering naturally-worded, real-life questions than even the smartest human?  Is it time to give up on knowledge and focus our educational efforts entirely on things like getting students to work creativity, collaborate effectively, and ask better questions?  Or is there still some purpose in having students learn things like basic math facts, major dates and events in history, and scientific processes like mitosis and photosynthesis?

I’m still on the side of knowledge, and I’ll explain why in my next post.  In the meantime, what are your thoughts on the importance of knowledge in a world of digital know-it-alls?

5 thoughts on “The Obsolete Know-It-All?

  1. It is a very interesting question that you pose. On one hand we need our students to have an understanding of events and information so they can build on prior knowledge, but on the other hand technology is going to be their future so we have to prepare them appropriately. I believe students need both. They will naturally learn factoid of things that they are interested in, and the things they are not so invested in they can look up later in life. If we can turn them into lifelong learners then they will naturally look for knowledge and use appropriate resources to find it.

  2. I think there will always be a place for knowing facts and being able to recall information without having to “GOOGLE” it! However, now that almost any fact is at the fingertips of students, a greater emphasis needs to be put on problem-solving, critical thinking, etc.

    I was just talking to a professor last night in one of my courses about this issue. He told me he went to the doctor for a check-up. He was having some issues and relayed that information to the doctor. Right there in the office, she went onto WEBMD and started to look up his symptoms to see what the diagnosis was.

    It’s not just students that have caught onto the convenience of the internet!!

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