e-nabling the future

Parroting data is no sign of intelligence, but using that data effectively will make our future entrepreneurs. PAUL WALLBANK

Paul Wallbank Tech Talk blog

By Paul Wallbank

When I first read the story of a Sydney school allowing kids to use the net and call friends during exams, I thought “what a good idea”.

It sounds strange and may offend the sensibilities of many of us born before 1990, but it’s an idea that deserves closer examination.

Simply being able to parrot pointless information became irrelevant years ago. Unless you’re into insider trading, the days of making money just from being a guardian of information are over.

Clifford Stoll, the high tech heretic, wrote: “Data is not information. Information is not knowledge. Knowledge is not understanding. Understanding is not wisdom.

Interestingly he was writing this in the context of why he believes computers don’t belong in classrooms, let alone exam halls, but his point is very, very valid.

The connected society means information is available and easy to get. Our customers can price shop, check our reputations and even hunt us down to our homes to complain about our employees.

So this isn’t just true for school kids, it is something we have to embrace in our society and use in our businesses.

Probably the most important challenge for business owners and managers is how we’re going to deal with these kids as they enter the workforce. When I watch my kids approach schoolwork I see deep differences in how they tackle problems.

One of the learning tools that fascinates me is Mathletics. This is a Sydney-based company that’s developed a world wide network of kids and schools competing in maths contests.

The combination of rewards and competition really motivates kids to exercise their minds and hone their maths skills. It’s a method that works very well with switched-on kids.

Those different learning techniques are going to carry on into the businesses as these kids enter the workforce, and as a result we’re going to see much more collaborative workplaces and much freer flows of information.

For all of us this going to be a challenge; we’re facing issues with our intellectual property, with keeping our skills current, with markets changing rapidly and competitors no longer being on the next corner but across the world.

The skills the teachers at Croydon PLC are trying to give their girls the same skills we are all going to need to meet those challenges and prosper.

We need to be thinking on where these skills are going to take us and where they will work best in our businesses. We’ll have to be flexible and open to new ideas, like allowing phones into exams.

Some of the ideas are going to work and some won’t. But those of us who do explore them and find the ones that work are going to have a powerful advantage over our bigger, slower and more staid competitors.


Paul Wallbank is Australia’s most heard computer commentator with his regular computer advice spots on ABC Radio. He’s written five computer books and just finished the latest Australian adaptation of Internet for Dummies. Paul founded and built up a national IT support company, PC Rescue and has a free help website at IT Queries. Today he spends most of his time consulting and advising community and business groups on getting the most from their technology.

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