A varied and sometimes erratic record of what I'm learning inside and outside of the classroom

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Nature of Knowledge

Shaun's comment on Kevin's intriguing post about organizational and collaborative learning got me thinking: What is the true nature of knowledge? What do we define as being "smart?" Is knowing something actually "knowing" it--having a specific piece of knowledge stored in our brains and being able to regurgitate it on demand--or is it knowing how to procure that information quickly using other resources? Or, to put it another way, are the algorithms we use to seek knowledge as, if not more, important than the knowledge itself? As I commented on Kevin's blog, in high school when taking the standardized tests, I felt that my test-taking skills (in other words, my algorithms for finding the answers) were almost more important than my background knowledge I brought with me as I attempted to come up with the correct answer.

Kevin pointed out that we can't possibly know everything, especially as our access to knowledge becomes ever wider. So the question is, in our technological age, is it more important to have a mental store full of information, or is it more important to have effective systems, or algorithms, for retrieving that same information through other resources? Intriguing questions indeed.


  1. I would have to say that our algorithms are more important; even things we understand as facts today could be proven wrong in the near future. We will stop attending college and one day have careers and families, but our ability to solve problems and figure out other methods will continue to be of value to us.

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  3. I agree too that our algorithms are more important. Especially in this digital age when information is being updated so rapidly what we cannot have all the answers with us. We can however know where and how to find the answers and how to apply knowledge. This is why I prefer open book tests. In the real world, we are allowed to have access to our books and knowledge resources. In the real world however, we need to be able to effectively find and use the knowledge that is in those resources. Check out this video to get a grasp of what I am talking about: http://youtu.be/T-XsvfuS7os

  4. Andrew, I thought the last part of the Youtube video was really relevant to the conversation. I do believe that the algorithms we use are most important.

    However, I can't help but feel that we shouldn't become too dependent on any one algorithm. For example, if we only use google to find answers to our questions, I feel like that limits our ability to think abstractly and come up solutions or answers in different creative ways.