Alan points to John Udell’s recent essay in InfoWorld, “The Network is the Blog” where, I think, he begins to articulate the effects of blogs and blogging and RSS from a information literacy standpoint:
The crush of information we process every day creates a terrible dilemma. On the one hand, we must conserve the scarce resource of attention. On the other hand, we need to become aware of everything that matters.
This begs a number of questions. First, how do we decide what matters? Second, once we figure that out, can we actually know everything that matters? And finally, if we think we can, how do we do that? Udell reflects on his practice, which is really pretty similar to my own:
Consider how my own inputs have evolved over the past five years. At one time, my RSS intake was mostly feeds from conventional published sources, along with a few from individuals. Now it’s the reverse. I subscribe to people more than to publications, and not because I don’t value the information in those publications — I do, very much — but rather because, outside of the realms in which I’m closely involved, I can delegate the job of tracking primary sources to people whose interests and inclinations qualify them to do so.
The irony of all of this is obvious. The more people we have glossing sources of information out there, the more information there is. The more information there is, the more we need help in finding what’s relevant and consuming it. I continue to struggle with this because although I agree it’s important to “know everything that matters,” at least in theory, I’m wondering if it’s humanly possible. The other piece of it is that there is no universal definition of what is important; what’s important to me is certainly different from what’s important to you. So this becomes an active relationship with information rather than a passive one. What a concept.
The good news is that without question, the Read/Write Web has made the consumption of information much more democratic, and it will continue to do so as long as it’s not regulated by the knuckleheads who currently regulate the more traditional media. And the other good news is that the more people we have using this network, the more reputable sources of information out there will rise to surface. Our job as educators is to give our kids the tools and the wherewithal to employ them in their own search for important and meaningful information. That’s doesn’t mean that every student needs to start and keep a blog, though I think on the whole, that would be a good thing. But it does mean we need to teach our kids how to think like a blogger. If we don’t teach them how to be editors as well as writers and readers, we’re doing them a great disservice.