I recently had the opportunity to hear Daniel Pink speak at my Alma Mater, North Central College. He was doing some speaking engagements related to his newest book, To Sell is Human, and was brought in by the wonderful Anderson Bookshops. As someone who has spoken with Pink personally, he will be the first to tell you that he writes for business folks in mind but understands that some educators pull ideas and concepts from his work. As with Drive and A Whole New Mind, his newest book has some cross over into the world of education. I already mentioned the three characteristics Pink outlined for salesmen that I thought had cross over into education. In addition, Pink discussed the notion of information asymmetry and information parity, which I think, has huge implications for educators.
The story that Pink shared was that of an individual going to a car lot and looking to buy a car “back in the day”. The buyer had basically no information other than what the seller had to offer and possibly what they read in the newspaper about the car. The information and control was completely in the hands of the seller. This is what Pink called “information asymmetry.” Now fast forward to current day car buying experience. The buyer can hop online and access numerous resources to find out the exact same level of information that the seller themselves have. At this point we have “information parity” in which the buyer and the seller are on equal ground in terms of access to information.
Let’s take a look at classrooms and schools and how that notion plays out there. Twenty years ago the teacher and schools had the information and knowledge that students wanted and needed. A student had to come to a school in order to get that information. The information asymmetry existed and the teachers were at an advantage in that they were the key to accessing that information. Yet, is that the case anymore? I don’t think so. We are in an age of information parity in our schools as much as we are on the car lots. But what does that mean for educators?
First, we have to realize that in some cases our students come into our classes having more exposure and access to information than we can even offer them in our classes. In addition, the potential for a student to know more about a subject than we do is not only possible but also probable. Teachers are no longer the keepers of the information and frankly are not needed to access that information. Does this mean that teachers are no longer needed? Not at all…in fact they are needed now more than ever.
Teachers have to shift their thinking around what their role within the classroom is in this age of information parity. No longer are teachers needed to help students find information or even to deliver it to them. Rather, the role of the teacher shifts to making sense of that information and curate this overwhelming flood of information. Students rarely are in need of being told how to find information but rather need to be taught what to do with the information they have found.