Thursday, June 04, 2009

Wolfram Alpha - Making the world's knowledge computable - Now What?

See ya later great knowledge memorizers of the world, and hello great knowledge appliers of the world. Is it me or are the people inhabiting this third rock from the sun, connecting, computing, and collecting knowledge like nothing we've ever seen before. Well, except for maybe the time we humans tried building that Tower of Babel, which ended up not working out so well. Introducing.... Wolfram Alpha, a powerful computational knowledge engine that seeks to make all systematic knowledge immediately computable by ANYONE. Connect this to a mobile device and we become walking and talking systematic knowledge carriers. We've had access to knowledge via the internet for quite some time, but this immediate access to systematic knowledge is something a little newer and worth pondering. I wonder if teachers will FINALLY stop creating tests that assess our students ability to memorize facts and start testing the application of those facts to solve real world problems. I'm especially looking at Universities to take up this challenge. With tools like Wolfram Alpha and Google Squared available to us, educational institutions should start building curriculum with the highest levels of Bloom's Taxonomy in mind. Maybe instructional designers could start with the fact that humans have access to just about all the available knowledge in the world and build from there. It sounds kind of funny, but it's true. This doesn't mean everyone understands the knowledge, but for the first time in history we do have easy access to it. Therefore, it is crucial we teach students where to find the knowledge, and then help them develop the skills to apply, analyse, synthesize, and evaluate it. We need to re-think assessment and skill acquisition for this day and age in this Knowledge Economy. It's time for schools to build curriculum that challenge us to really engage in the application of knowledge and not the memorization of definitions, forumulas, and factoids. That's lazy instruction. Yes, there is a place for memorizing in education...It is a good idea for teachers to memorize their students' names and interests. Personally, I don't care how great of a memorizor my accountant is. I want to know if that person can think about whole systems and solve financial problems that can save me money. What does it mean for you to have access to the world's systematic knowledge? How will you apply it? What does it mean for schools? How can they apply tools like Wofram Alpha and Google Squared to their curriculum. What does it mean for businesses? What do you think?