The Impact of Digital Media on Knowledge Creation

Did you ever wonder how “they” produce updated dictionaries? Groups of academics are supplied with word lists to research. They go through journals, news articles and so on to compare previous meanings to apparent new connotations in contemporary use. If there is a prevalence of new meaning, the dictionary changes. This is an oversimplification but it serves to make the point. What I am sharing today is an explanation of how people change meanings and co-create knowledge and how the “they” is becoming more of a “we.”

This is a more academic topic than I usually tackle here. It is a topic that we do not often hear about. While we are all aware of the prevalence and growth of the Internet as an information sharing tool and many have come to grasp the shift from our previous era of top down media consumption flow, the depth of change resulting from the concomitant leveling of the means of production and distribution has yet be to fully grasped by most.

More simply put, the nature of collective knowledge creation has changed.

Pre-Internet Dissemination of Knowledge Flow

Screen Shot 2013-06-16 at 8.57.57 PM

The Changing Nature of Knowledge
George Siemens suggests in his book, Knowing Knowledge, that those who have in the past formed the privileged elite writing books and documentaries for one-way mass consumption are now becoming the dinosaurs of the digital age. We now have legions of interested, capable individuals able to not only comment on this sort of work (and immediately) but to produce work of their own adding to, commenting on, or outright contradicting the opinions of those who, in the past, would rarely be the subject of such public scrutiny outside of their professional circles.

Production Comes to the Masses
Through the advent of the internet and the digital tools that have been developed alongside it, anyone with a computer now potentially has a voice, or at the very least, an entryway into the conversation that was previously unavailable. The quality of what one has to offer is itself largely impacted by the level to which these new authors participate in ongoing conversations they have through some of the very same digital tools they are using to impact on the very same knowledge they come into contact with through.

Distribution Available to All Through Social Media & PLN
While all these new authors have access to the multi-directional information matrix of the Internet, the quality of what we have to say remains the judgement of those receiving. For that matter, the ability to find interested parties and to link with them is a fundamental new skill in this new knowledge creation paradigm.

Twitter, LinkedIn, even Facebook all offer the opportunity to find and connect with those interested in the same subsets of information that form part of our intentionally created connected world. By learning how to use social media for professional development and engagement and spending time developing our Professional Learning Networks (PLN) we can become more effective communicators and knowledge brokers ourselves. To the extent to which we find and connect with intelligent, informed others and are able to effectively communicate our thoughts on information that we have either created or come across (often times a combination of the two) we are able to join in the construction and dissemination of meaning in the digital age.

As the image below relates, those not actively participating in effective PLN’s are missing out on many facets of interaction that would lead to more effective distribution of their ideas which would, in turn, lead to greater construction of individual understanding through engagement and impact on the constructed meanings and knowledge of others in this reiterative process.

Screen Shot 2013-06-16 at 9.30.18 PM

Some NEW Basics for Schooling (Visual Literacy, Networking & Distribution)
We have now seen how the top down nature of the knowledge for consumption era is coming to an end. We have explored at a very surface level how individuals may participate in more meaningful ways with the knowledge that is being disseminated and, in fact, become more meaningful co-creators of knowledge themselves. With all of the information and knowledge traffic created, however, just adding to it is not necessarily of value in itself. Here is an oversimplified illustration that shows you what’s happening:

Pace of Information Growth

In just a week, there will be 250 times more information then there was in all of human history. Again this is over simplified and not entirely accurate but the point is that information growth is completely out of control.

Directing one’s own learning in this environment of information overload in order to come into contact with information we are likely to need becomes a vital skill in this new order. We must learn the new basics if we wish to remain relevant and wish to be heard ourselves. In our schools we must now also impart visual literacy, networking & distribution skills.

Visual literacy refers to principles of basic design (like C.R.A.P.) and the production of effective infographics all the way up to the grammar of cinema.  Fundamental networking and distribution elements have been touched upon here but should also include blogging and the ability to create websites and to link these to other sources of information and even the skills to embed digital information in all forms into websites created as part of developing and controlling students’ individual digital footprints.

In the end you may ask, “Is this really important enough to be embraced by schools and inform curricula? There is so much to cover and more information added by the minute.”

Business schools the world over have taught a simple message for years, “Influence, or be influenced.”

What sort of individuals do we want leaving our schools? Influencers or the influenced?

Let me know what you think.

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About Sean Thompson

Sean is an educational technology specialist at Sacred Heart International School in Tokyo. He travels extensively across southeast Asia speaking, presenting and participating in discussions regarding the effective integration of technology in an educational setting. In 2014 he partnered up with DEEP Learning to support the team with the development, promotion and execution of professional development conferences for teachers worldwide. Sean is also an Apple Distinguished Educator, an International Baccalaureate Educator Network Workshop Leader , a Google education Trainer and a Certified Google Educator available for professional development at your school.
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4 Responses to The Impact of Digital Media on Knowledge Creation

  1. I certainly want students to be influencers, but I also want them to be thoughtfully influenced. I want them to ask questions about authors/sources, evaluate statistics and trace the logical progression of ideas. I want them to cross-reference ideas and themes with similar patterns throughout history, consider ethical implications, and then add their own ideas – ideas which are credible based on the background work and logical thought processes.

    Here is the best model I’ve seen: Humanities classes are focused on understanding complex social issues. Service then follows, with intentional reflection on how the experience aligns with the earlier study. These students are true influencers during and after high school.

    • Sean says:

      Ah yes, the other side of the coin. Thank you for rounding me off Janet. I looked at your link and will be sharing it with our service coordinator come August. Thanks for sharing your thoughts & resources as well. Have a stellar summer!
      P.S. Will you be going to 2.013 this fall? Know of any other good tech PD in Asia coming up?

      • Hi Sean,
        Fortunately and unfortunately, I’m not in summer – I’m in the midst of Australian winter :). Will let you know if I hear of conferences, though.

  2. Pingback: The Impact of Digital Media on Knowledge Creation « New Images of Education

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