Thoughts on teaching, technology, learning and life in an era of change.
Filtering out the junk and the noise
August 26th, 2008

Maish Nichani has written a telling post on inner spam filters. He was inspired by an article in the Scientific American, Your Inner Spam Filter. Maish succinctly relates that there are two types of people, “those who can remember large amounts of information (high-capacity individuals) and those who can’t (low-capacity individuals). The draw on research and show that it’s not that the high-capacity individuals have a larger store, it’s just that they are better at ignoring the spam that comes their way! In fact they found that some low-capacity individuals were holding more information than high-capacity individuals.” Which am I?

Is this a skill or an ability that we can teach to our students? This is certainly a skill for the 21st century. Kyle Barrow published the chart shown above last May. I wonder what data generated the chart yet assuming it is accurate it is quite clear that we need to impart to our children the ability to filter out the noise and eliminate the spam in the first instance.

2 Responses to “Filtering out the junk and the noise”

  1. Ken Allan Says:

    Kia ora John!

    I guess I must be one of the people with spam filterers. What makes me think that? Two things:

    I was never any good at Trivial Pursuits, though I knew a lot (and I mean a lot) about what I needed to do to do my job. Despite my tenacity with the game, friends said, “You just don’t know enough trivia.”

    I can be very good at doing crossword puzzles. I like crossword puzzles, which is fortunate, but they don’t always like me. If the crossword compiler of our local rag changes, I go through hell trying to ‘tune’ into the mind-set of the compiler. Though I understand that this is not an uncommon problem for crossword enthusiasts when the compiler changes, not everyone has the problems that I do. I think it comes down to the pool of trivia that the compiler uses in writing a set of crossword puzzles.

    But these might be taking it a bit off topic.

    I suspect that filtering the junk can’t be taught, at least not easily. I think it’s related to the skills needed to write useful search criteria, for instance.

    Writing relevant criteria that will return useful results is also not easily taught. Many people use so-called ‘relevant’ data in their search that returns junk. It all hinges on what one calls ‘relevant’. One might think that those skilled in mathematics and logic or even a bit of science, would be better at writing good search criteria. I’ve found this is not the case.

    It might be an interesting study (if one CAN assess low and high-capacity in people) to see which of that group write the best search criteria.

    (Incidentally – and this is just a bit of trivia – I could not access this post from my Google Reader. Check it out.)

    ka kite
    from Middle-earth

  2. John Larkin Says:

    Thanks Ken. I agree, teaching students how to pinpoint their search queries is a skill to be shared and taught. I find that I have to be ruthless at times and filter out the noise in my reader at times. Cheers, John.