24 March 2008

Cringely on Open Education

I've always had a rather ambivalent attitude to Robert X. Cringely, not least because I go so far back that I remember all the messy business with Infoworld when he left, and that strange time when there were several Cringelies knocking around simultaneously.

Anyway, his PBS column is always well written and frequently illuminating. His latest is about education - or rather, about open education, since he muses on the changing way people will learn, and that means open education. There's a very nice insight about halfway through:

Andy Hertzfeld said Google is the best tool for an aging programmer because it remembers when we cannot. Dave Winer, back in 1996, came to the conclusion that it was better to bookmark information than to cut and paste it. I'm sure today Dave wouldn't bother with the bookmark and would simply search from scratch to get the most relevant result. Both men point to the idea that we're moving from a knowledge economy to a search economy, from a kingdom of static values to those that are dynamic. Education still seems to define knowing as more important than being able to find, yet which do you do more of in your work?

I remember coming to the same conclusion sometime in the mid-1990s, when I found myself using the Altavista search engine (remember that?) for everything. More importantly, as Cringely notes, I found that remembering how I got to information was the key skill.

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