A Closer Look Inside the Classroom

Wayfinding students have an enormous opportunity to tailor the program to their particular interests and passions as they shape a Life on Purpose. Examples include Portfolio projects, Labs, Learn and Explore trips, Internships and Guide discussions. This intentional flexibility rests on a foundation of nine Core Courses in which all students participate. One of these is Engaging with Information.

The rationale for this particular course (and adventure!) has deep roots that extend back through 1776 to Ancient Greece — a Democracy requires informed citizens. The course framework is deceptively simple — let’s strengthen our Information Literacy. Let’s improve our ability to gather, analyze and evaluate Information, and to use it well as citizens of a troubled world who are living with purpose.

Information, of course, extends well beyond the now ubiquitous internet, so the course rests on a foundation of language, the library, the scientific method and information theory. The course then takes a ‘deep dive’ into the heart of information literacy — asking questions and thinking critically. We build awareness, practice skills and embrace discipline. And finally, we conclude by
Exploring important issues that emerge, as we look forward, including privacy and truth.

So, how is all this going, half-way through the course? Let’s listen to our students:

  • I wish someone had given me this paper to read in college!!! — Yes, indeed. BUT … this student found this paper herself, using the resources available to her. This is a tremendous confidence-builder, and a foundation for effective life-long learning.
  • I have never considered myself a good researcher. In the past, when I attempted to do research, I realized that I was just searching for what I thought the professor wanted to see. But this experience felt much different. When I started researching, I decided that I would let curiosity be my guide - and it led me to information I wouldn’t have uncovered otherwise. — Such a difference! Yes, many times, there are focused objectives for the research … but sometimes, serendipity and curiosity are truly rewarding!
  • This sure is a lot of work! — Yes, indeed! And welcome to the world, as the saying goes. Wayfinding is a full and busy environment, and this class expects daily preparation and multiple projects. “Well, how will you manage this?” A good and difficult question, for there will always be too much to do in living a life on purpose. This course provides an opportunity to grapple with this challenge.
  • We are scientists. I believe that in essence, we are all scientists, especially as kids. There are a hundreds of stereotypes about scientists, but anyone can find the desire for science. — Amen. It is so distressing that many educational environments extinguish that spark… as we work so hard to reignite it.
  • This got me thinking about the current education system and how I had been trained to replicate the right answer by copying notes from the whiteboard and memorizing facts without really understanding the concept underneath it all. I decided to try to break the adder circuit down into smaller bits and found a video that explained the AND circuit. It finally clicked … — This comment illustrates the transition from a passive to an
  • active learner, such an important step as an informed citizen and a life-long learner.
  • The mathematical side of my brain lights up, which is a treat. I'm starting to appreciate mathematics more and more. It just seems like there's something so concise and eloquent when using mathematics to understand an idea. — With the diversity of interests among the students, it is delightful to observe the great variety of topics that “light up” their thinking.
  • That was quite eye opening. I feel like it shows how much this rapidly moving information (internet) is changing how carefully we really need to be with what we produce. — So much of what we do in this course is ‘opening eyes’ to the boundless knowledge that is increasingly available to all … and the growing tide of mis-leading, false and biased information that threatens to overwhelm us.

As former President Obama said last fall while in Germany1:

"Democracy is hard work … if we are not serious about facts, and what's true and what's not, particularly in the age of social media where so many people are getting their information in sound bites and snippets of their phones—if we can't discriminate between serious arguments and propaganda, then we have problems."

We seek, in this course, to strengthen Information Literacy. And, along the way, we work hard on important and difficult life lessons. To meet me and hear my vision for this course, check out this two-minute video.

Do you have the courage to tackle this adventure?

David Rikert has pursued a life of involvement with interesting things. His passion for education began with teaching physics and mountaineering in secondary schools; continued through eighteen years at NIKE, with a focus on management learning; and now finds expression in developing and teaching courses on HR, Business and Information. He has engaged deeply with competitive skiing, rock climbing, mountain biking and sea kayaking;and is a life-long woodworker. His wife and he operate a B&B on the edge of Portland’s Forest Park.