The 21st century information environment

A little more than 10 years ago universities were graduating teachers who would work in schools where the principal information challenge was access. Now that most classrooms have networked computers with Internet access, the information economy of education has been inverted and the information challenge has become one of selection rather than access (Albion & Maddux, 2007).

When it is possible to reach out over wireless networks and access information where and when it is needed, new understandings of knowledge and learning emerge. To what extent is knowledge now an artefact of the network(s) by which we are connected? Downes (2006) has noted that there are tasks, such as building an aircraft and flying it across an ocean, that cannot be accomplished by any individual but require a network within which the necessary knowledge resides. Siemens (2005) regards learning as “primarily a network forming process”.

Shifts in the understanding of knowledge and the technologies by which it is built and accessed must affect our understanding of learning and education.

In an information-rich environment, education is likely to be less about accumulating information, whether transmitted from others or constructed, and more about transforming it in ways that make it more useful” (Albion & Maddux, 2005, p.305)

Traditionally assessment has sought to measure the knowledge held by an individual learner or the ability of the learner to apply knowledge that is available in memory or other sources. If knowledge is in the network, what might it mean to attempt a measure of the knowledge held by an individual in isolation from the network? (Albion & Maddux, 2005, p.307)

We are designing a program which will accept its first students in 2009 and from which the first graduates will begin teaching in 2013. The evolution of our information environment will continue over that time. How do we best prepare educators to work in an environment in which they will not be dispensers of information so much as guides to how it can be accessed, selected and transformed? Can we evolve our own practice to reflect the new realities?


Albion, P. R., & Maddux, C. (2007). Networked knowledge: challenges for teacher education. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 15(3), 303-310.

Downes, S. (2006). Learning networks and connective knowledge. Instructional Technology Forum. Retrieved March 13,2007 from

Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. International Journal of Instructional Technology & Distance Learning, 2. Retrieved March 13, 2007 from