The Difference Between Access To Information And Knowledge

Knowledge comes from using information, not access to it. It’s an important distinction to be made in the era of the web and the unlimited amount of information available. Just because someone copies a bit of how-to information onto an online forum doesn’t mean they know something. I’m not trying to be elitist, but there is a distinction to be made.

Does watching something make you an expert at it? Does it even make you competent? I don’t think so. I think you have to work with it to become good at it. The video can give you tips, it can provide great motivation, but you have to build the knowledge yourself by actually doing it. Has anyone ever learned to ice skate by watching videos and reading books? Swim?

Something I see a lot of these days, especially with YouTube, is people who take old books and work on some of the projects and skills found there. Because they’re on camera doing it, their followers immediately build them up as an expert (and they should, they’re on TV!). But they’ve really shared information, not knowledge. It doesn’t become knowledge until the viewer does something with it. And before the presenter is made into a guru, they should be sure to do it enough times to really know it on a deep level, not just do it once or twice on camera.

We talk about the difference between shallow and deep knowledge on a subject in our courses. For shallow knowledge, one can learn the rule, a short explanation of how or why something is done, maybe a sentence or two in length. But to really know it, the background information must be thoroughly learned. It would be the equivalent of 300-400 pages of text, and provides a richer understanding of all the factors in play.

Where I’m going with this is that to really know a subject, to have deep knowledge of it, takes a lot of work on the part of the learner, not just access to superficial information on the topic.

Blog, Educational Philosophy

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