Meta-Processing

1/18/12

Xconomist Report

Both what we are teaching and learning, and how we are teaching and learning, are changing, very, very rapidly. The notion that there is a gold standard—a favored text or tome, a single subject-matter expert, or a single corporation with the single best practice, in any discipline—is really outdated. The ‘new normal’ is generation of information by multiple sources, and use of meta-analysis to sort for the most correct, most useful information. The winners in this era are those who can synthesize and execute, efficiently, which requires both creativity and dogged methodology.

The sorting functions we used to use for culling information required long periods of time, and the sole use of human intelligence. Now, online resources and once-high-tech search algorithms are now commonplace, and in the hands of anyone who can afford a connection to the Internet. Though most users of these tools do not understand their basic workings, they are able to use them, efficiently and effectively. Really, I see this as not only democratizing learning, but also enabling appreciation of more than a few types of intelligence. The ability to learn by rote, quickly and accurately, is less valuable than the ability to meta-process quickly, to draw information from multiple sources (and often generated in disparate fields) and synthesize conclusions, or better, a strategy, for business or technology.

So, today’s students should not only be preparing for their career contributions by learning, but also by challenging ‘facts’ and what is presented to them. It is one thing to memorize from an authorized text, but entirely another, more valuable thing, to be able to answer a question using one’s own resources, and give not only a well-synthesized answer, but also defend the sources of information which inform it. My strong advice to young people is thus to question the ‘text,’ and my strong advice to teachers is to assign questions, not only rote learning.

Xconomist Report

Ann Marie Sastry is President and CEO Sakti3, an advanced battery manufacturing company recognized as having one of Technology Review's Top Ten global technologies for 2011. Follow @

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