Hierarchies of Understanding:: data is useful, INFORMATION “invaluable”


I’m as good (or bad) at understanding humans and human learning as the next person! I am not an “educator” just someone who, I suspect (like everyone else), has at some time or other felt swamped: by too much to do; too much to absorb; too little time. We know that people learn in different ways and at different speed and, quite apart from Carpenter & Cannady, there are any number of alternative views on HoU…take your pick!

What I like about the C&C approach is that it reflects an ongoing process – we ARE (or should be) constantly learning – with feedback from our environment shaping our perspectives. On one occasion rendering the “expert” a “novice” and, on another, providing the vital “missing piece” that transforms information to knowledge and, through understanding, to wisdom.

In the beginning was information*…

But, ever the contrarian, I can’t ignore the fact that, the limitations to obtaining data (about anything) pertaining to that which we are observing, are our own!

Let me clarify what I mean. Every “object”, whether naturally occurring or man-made, possesses information about itself e.g. its orgins, properties, construction, etc. The information about its properties are inherent and it is our curiosity, the tools or techniques developed and deployed to identify and interpret that detail which limits our knowledge of a subject, its purpose and potential usage: our understanding is constrained by our knowledge.

[*I DO concede that most scholars would plump for the term raw data but that messes with the mental image I have! So I am more ‘in tune’ with J. D. Bekenstein who, in 2003, claimed that a growing trend in physics (& digital physics) was to define the physical world as being made up of information itself]

That apart, my own thoughts in this area mirror those of Gene Bellinger, who wrote:

Knowledge Management is a recent area of interest for me. An area that got my attention because of some connections made during my continuing study of systems. I have pondered the relationship between data, information, knowledge, and wisdom for some time and from a systems perspective made the following connection.

Data: is represented as an item or event out of context with no relation to other things.

Information: is represented by relationships between data, and possibly other information. The relationships may represent information, yet the relationships do not actually constitute information until they are understood. Also, the relationships which represent data have a tendency to be limited in context, mostly about the past or present, with little if any implication for the future.

Knowledge: is represented by patterns between data, information, and possible other knowledge. These patterns may represent knowledge, yet the patterns do not actually constitute knowledge until they are understood. Also, the patterns which represent knowledge have a high level of predictability associated with them such that the pattern suggests its past, its present, and its future.

Wisdom: is the patterns which represent knowledge are what they are because of foundational principles, which for a time I called eternal truths but people beat me up so much I stopped. When one understands these foundational principles they then understand why the knowledge is what it is.

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