Technology, knowledge, and limits By Seyi Olanihun

It’s interesting how much the world has changed in the past five years. The terrain is vastly different and for the new generation of students, workers, entrepreneurs etc., there are certain things that are totally inconceivable. The most obvious is the ready access to information courtesy of the internet. Anything from ancient Egyptian history, to the recipe for chocolate chip cookies is there for the asking…just Google it! There’s no need to trek or seek any physical location (think library) in order to retrieve this type of information. Electronic libraries abound and everything’s just a click away and on something no bigger than your palm too.

For individuals that were educated prior to the mobile internet era it takes some getting used to the ready news and knowledge that’s also easily accessible. Here in Nigeria mobile phones were not even common until a decade ago. Thus that generation of students (tertiary inclusive) didn’t have the joy of sending text messages, pictures, videos and the ability to answer calls during classes. Information retrieval took the usual route of going to the library and searching for the relevant tomes. Lucky for you if the required material was found it in its proper place and better yet if all its pages were intact. Study groups were usually physical and the concept of groups gathering any other way was the stuff fantasies were made of.

Fast forward to the current dispensation and a few questions (did I say a few?!) about how bygone generations acquired knowledge, retrieved, stored and passed it along can be freely asked. This becomes a futile exercise and not worthwhile for those making the enquiries…what’s the point they ask? How in the world did you get the necessary information for assignments, tests and the dreaded examinations? How did you cram without the latest facts readily available? The world is awash with information about any and everything and the imminent problem the new crop of students is burdened with is information overload as opposed to a dearth!

Technology has made it much easier to learn, discover and share during this journey. Mobile telephony and tablets of various types ensure that you have no ready excuse to be ignorant. The choice of what to consume is now a major responsibility (headache!) left to the discretion of the individual learner. Materials abound, thus other things not quite as edifying are near enough to distract or serve as a reward for work done. Everything fights for the most precious of all commodities…attention and concentration from people.

Since technological advancement has changed the way we learn it has also changed what we learn too. This means that facts previously restricted (available) to later classes are now ingested by a much younger group. This keeps the seniors (think parents, aunties etc) on their toes to continue knowledge acquisition just to keep up! When class two (seven to eight years old) and five (between nine and ten year old) are given ‘homework’ that requires they use the internet in order to complete these assignments pray tell who really does this work? Adequate supervision is needed when children do assignments and also places more demand on adults to be better informed.

The information superhighway is open and everyone is moving at supersonic speeds. Keeping up, growth, development and balance are crucial in this current dispensation. Ignorance is no longer bliss and the best use of the ‘common’ knowledge on hand is what will be evaluated. This evaluation starts from the individual and spreads, excuses are no longer tenable and the challenge only becomes more daunting daily. 

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