Steven W. Anderson

Information overload, also known as "information glut" and "data smog", is a widely known phenomenon caused by an abundance of information that our brain cannot cope with. The term is a buzzword, however, few people know the nature of the problem and how to avoid it when designing eLearning courses and teaching students. To get to the bottom of information overload problem, we interviewed an educator, speaker, director of Instructional Technology, #edchat contributor and author of the “Content curation. How to avoid Information overload” book - Steven W. Anderson.


Steven, how do you quantify “information overload”? And what is the nature of this problem?

Think about how we accessed any information just 10 years ago. Many of us would trek down to our local library, sift through pages of materials to find the one nugget of fact we needed to complete a project. Today, all known information is at our finger tips with the touch of a few buttons. Having access to all this knowledge isn't a bad thing. The overload comes in when we don't know the best sources of information, how to organize that information when we do find the best, and, most importantly how to share that information so others can grow from it as well.

It’s an interesting contradiction that technology gives us freedom, but can also tie us down if we don’t take control of it. How to help prevent information overload and gain control over the relationship with technology?

Technology is sometimes a blessing and a curse at the same time. So we have access to all this knowledge but where are the best sources? How do I keep it all straight? My approach is simple. Use your community of learners to find the best sources of information. Your Personal Learning Network should consist of experts in all areas and they can be a wealth of information when looking for, well information! And look beyond traditional sources. Blogs, social bookmarking sites, even social communities can be sources of great information. Once you've gathered the best of the best then you need a way to organize. Using online notebooking tools or even docs that have the ability, tag, search, organize by thread and, importantly, share can work.

What is the first step in moving forward out of the digital flow?

The first step is to realize there is a great deal of information out there. And that means there are sources currently unknown to us that can be beneficial. We have to consider a wider variety of sources. But with that comes the responsibility to ensure we are exercising our best digital mind when searching and sorting. Strong digital literacy skills are important today to ensure we are dealing with only the best, most accurate information.

You wrote a book called “Content curation. How to avoid Information overload”. Could you please explain what is meant by “content curation” and how to use it in teaching and learning practice?

Think of the role of a museum curator. Their job is to gather artifcats to tell a story. The same could be true as part of the teaching and learning process. We gather information to tell a story. Content curation is the act of searching, vetting, organizing and sharing the best, most appropriate information. In the teaching and learning process it should be at the heart of not only what students do but teachers must be good curators of information.

JoomlaLMS blog readers one way or another are connected with online education. Do you have any recommendations for eLearning course designers, distant courses teachers and students on how to impart and digest information without increasing cognitive load? For example, share some essentials for online course design and increasing students' cognitive resources for learning.

For elearning course design it is important to allow students to consider multiple sources of information when learning and sharing. Traditional sources like encyclopedias and vetted articles are great but the social web is exposing us to much more information both good and bad. Its important to consider those sources when teaching and learning.


About the Author:

Steven Anderson

Steven W. Anderson is an educator, speaker and blogger.
As a former Director of Instructional Technology and Instructional Technologist and Classroom Teacher, Steven is a recognized expert in the infusion of technology in teaching and social media for learning.

You can read more about him on his blog blog.web20classroom.org, his website www.web20classroom.org or rich him on Twitter @web20classroom.