Overexposure of Information and Underexposure of Experiences

If we believe that we can teach students of this 21st century just like we have taught them in past generations, we are sorely mistaken. Kind of the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality. Except something is broke…and it needs fixing. Effectiveness in teaching demands an understanding of those that you have the privilege to influence.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles | Freedigitalphotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles | Freedigitalphotos.net

My burden today, if you will, is the deluge of information with which our students are confronted combined with a lack of experiences to “own” that information. There is a tension between these two forces that demands some reflective thought by us as teachers.

If you want a good video that will illustrate the informational side of this tension, take a few minutes to view Did You Know? and be surprised at the rapid rate at which information is unfolding and changing.

I am reading through Tim Elmore’s book Artificial Maturity and came across an idea that is instigating some helpful tension in my mind. Elmore discusses how our students can have an artificial maturity about them and the effects of this on them and their outlook on life.

In short, the artificial maturity dilemma can be described this way: 1) Children are overexposed to information, far earlier than they’re ready. 2) Children are underexposed to real-life experiences far later than they’re ready. This overexposure-underexposure produces artificial maturity. It’s a new kind of fool’s gold. It looks so real because kids know so much, but it’s virtual because they have experienced so little. (p. 4)

The more I have pondered this idea, the more I find myself buying into it. It is helping my own thinking in the classroom to realize that every interaction with my students should be an opportunity for transformation and not just information. Experiences, both in and out of the classroom, must be strategically and intentionally planned.

Students must be given opportunities to feel the good tension of learning through experiences. The teacher, as a compass and guide, is there to help the student examine that tension and ask the right questions to come to correct conclusions. It is only then that proper application can occur leading to life integration.

We live in a different age than when I was in school. And new information is being produced daily at astounding rates. But unless we are actively allowing these young lives in our classrooms to have experiences that validate their processing of information, I am afraid we are going to continue to see a continuation of this artificial maturity.

Community Input: Are you seeing this today? How are you combating this in your own mindset and classroom?

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2 thoughts on “Overexposure of Information and Underexposure of Experiences

    • Thanks for the comment, Paul. That quote really grabbed my attention because in it it is easy to see where we as teachers are most valuable: bridging that overexposure of information to that underexposure of experiences.

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