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Information is Cheap

by Ryan Irelan

Not long ago, I posted this on Twitter:

Information is cheap, meaning is expensive.

That’s a quote from George Dyson, the American and Canadian science historian and author.

Here’s what preceded the quote, from an interview with The European Magazine:

Finding answers is easy. The hard part is creating the map that matches specific answers to the right question. That’s what Google did: They used the power of computing – which is cheap and really does not have any limits – to crawl the entire internet and collected and index all the answers. And then,by letting human beings spend their precious time asking the right questions, they created a map between the two. That is a clever way of approaching a problem that would otherwise be incomprehensibly difficult.

We now live in a world where information is potentially unlimited. Information is cheap, but meaning is expensive. Where is the meaning? Only human beings can tell you where it is. We’re extracting meaning from our minds and our own lives.

In my world, plain, vanilla information on a topic isn’t always enough to successfully learn it.

I’ve written about teaching with context before and how it’s always, always a winning situation for both the student and teacher.

Relating what you’re teaching to your students—teaching with context—is one ingredient of helping your students succeed. Your students could be in a classroom in front of you, viewers of a digital training course you created, or the readers of documentation you wrote. Your students could even be the attendees of a talk you’re giving at a conference.

There are dozens, hundreds, perhaps even thousands of tutorials on the same topic. But so many of them just state the steps and the facts. Most of them lack a coherent story and context: the why.

Information is indeed cheap (and easy to find). Giving that information meaning is what good teachers and tutorials do to help students learn.

Filed Under: Learning Techniques