FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
FALL 2016 3
You’ve probably seen, or said in
exasperation, the expression TMI.
Too much information! That’s an
understandable response in these days
of 24/7 cable news and incessant email
and text alerts.
As I write, the people of Baton
Rouge, Louisiana, are again desperate
for information. For the third time
in a little more than a month, this
community has been challenged by events beyond its
control: first, protests in the wake of a shooting; then the
killing of three law enforcement officers on a lazy Sunday
morning; and now historic flooding, the result of a storm
with no name that required the relocation of thousands from
their homes. In each case, citizens have been dependent on
local television and social media not only for developments
but for information about how to stay safe.
And in each case, as we locals watched events unfolding at
familiar locations, we learned that the nation was watching
as well. In Baton Rouge we watched to avoid roads that were
closed or blocked, and we watched the water’s path. The title
of a favorite novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, was never
so palpable. You watched in empathy and compassion even
as you tried to comprehend our situation, possibly feeling as
helpless as we. You sought information from us: how had we
fared, what did we need, how could you help.
Is it possible in such a tragic situation for there to be too
much information? Certainly not in the near term, no matter
who or where we are.
There’s a difference, however, between information and
learning. Learning is a process in which a learner engages
information, culls and considers it, finally integrating it into her
TOO MUCH INFORMATION?
BY MAR Y TODD
knowledge bank before using it to advance further learning.
A study conducted in fall 2015 and released in March
2016 by the Pew Research Center looked at Americans
as learners. While we in Phi Kappa Phi like to speak of
ourselves as lifelong learners, it turns out most Americans
feel they are as well. Pew found that 73 percent of adults
consider themselves lifelong learners —74 percent personal
learners who have pursued activities to advance their
knowledge base, and 63 percent professional learners, fullor part-time workers who pursued work-related training or
expertise in the past year.
You may be surprised to read that most of this learning
did not happen online. By far, interview respondents
reported their personal learning experiences took place at an
actual physical locale, such as a school, church, or library.
Even those who reported professional learning did so at a
work-related venue rather than online, despite possessing
appropriate technology to do so.
And while the reasons respondents pursued learning
varied, the primary reason cited was to make their lives more
interesting or full, or to help them help others. People are
looking for opportunities to grow as individuals. In seeking
information, they’re expressing curiosity.
The Pew study, with its focus on what they call “the joy
and urgency of learning,” is worth a read [Pew Research
Center, March, 2016, “Lifelong Learning and Technology”].
Pew concludes: “The rise of the knowledge economy,
the growing imperative to learn and the proliferation of
educational platforms have combined to make America a
nation of learners.” The love of learning really does rule.
Too much information? Not necessarily. It’s what you do
with it that counts. What learning might follow the recent
tragic devastation in Louisiana?