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?