Wait, let me start over.
Do you teach?
Wait, let me start over again.
Are you alive, and curious?
Okay, that’s better. I think this is worth 13 minutes of your time. Go watch it, then come back.
I believe Wolfram Alpha is supposed to go live tomorrow. It’s obviously still very, very new (will they change its name to Wolfram Beta later? That will mess up the URL’s. Kidding.) It will be interesting to see what kinds of searches lend themselves to this more computational approach and what kinds don’t, but I still think this is another big step in how humans find, access, digest and repurpose information. Designed to “compute answers to your specific questions,” this once again should make us examine what we are doing in our classrooms, and how we should best prepare our students to be successful in an age with this much computational firepower.
What facts (discrete pieces of information?) do we need to know in order to develop deep understandings of important concepts, and what facts can we just google or wolfram (or will the verb be alpha)? What previously unknown relationships might be teased out of the data by the Wolfrom Alpha algorithms, or what will humans looking at this data in new and unique ways discover? What new questions will we learn to ask, or will we learn to ask old questions in new ways? (You can also view a much longer talk by Stephen Wolfram at the Berkman Center. No, I have not watched it all yet.)
Also note that Google is evolving as well. Joyce Valenza has a good summary post over at School Library Journal that discusses the new features. I also thought this quote she shared from a Google presenter was interesting,
If users can’t spell, it’s our problem. If they don’t know how to form the syntax, it’s our problem. If there’s not enough content, it’s our problem.Hmm. I wonder whose problem it is if our students don’t know how to question, ask/search, find, evaluate, synthesize, repurpose, remix, and solve problems using tools like Google and Wolfrom Alpha?