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College students and information overload

December 19, 2016

HydrantMost Americans like their choices in today’s information-saturated world. But 20% feel overloaded, and there are stresses for those with fewer pathways to the internet or who feel they are expected to do too much information gathering.

That’s how the Pew Research Center summarized its recent findings on Information Overload.*

One take-away for teaching and learning in higher education is that people under 21 experience the least information overload. No surprise there — the young have never known anything else; to them it is the normal state of things. This is yet another proof that college students and their instructors see the world differently.

If you need consolation, here’s my opinion: students may be quicker to dig up the name of William Howard Taft’s mother, but they’re no better at evaluating the quality of the information they find — or knowing how to use it effectively. That’s one of the reasons they go to college.

* Alvin Toffler’s 1970 bestseller Future Shock ushered “information overload” into popular culture.

[Image credit: Hydrant  by Elliott Scott]

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