Home > General > The Big Question – Snacking Culture Response

The Big Question – Snacking Culture Response

I was really intrigued by a post on The Learning Circuits blog regarding information snacking.  The basic premise is:

People seem to be spending less time going through information in depth and less willing to spend time on information. We seem to be snacking on information, not consuming it in big chunks.

So the post posed a few questions and I’d like to give my take on each one.

  • Has there really been a shift? Are people changing their information consumption? Are they really snacking more?

I’m not sure if the question is whether people have changed or if the ability to get the information in the bite-sized pieces has increased. Fundamentally, I think people have always wanted the quick answer but were unable to just have the information so readily handed to them. It was required to read through manuals or attend conferences or read research papers to get the information they were looking for. Now, with the wealth of information that can be found quickly and easily online, people no longer HAVE to look deeper. And I’m not sure that is a bad thing.

People are now able to work more efficiently by finding their quick answers and getting on with the task at hand. So what if they don’t know the story behind the information. If that is something they feel they need to know then they can go find that information too.

  • Do we need to think about instruction differently? Is it a matter of better design so that people are engaged beyond a snack?

Yes, (make that a big, resounding yes) we need to think about instruction differently. And I think the second question is the problem. People will only learn if they are interested in the topic. By trying to make people interested in something they aren’t currently interested in, aren’t we taking the responsibility of learning off the learner? Why do we feel the need to force extra information onto someone who doesn’t need it?

Now, I’m not saying, “Don’t provide extra information.” Provide all the information. Disclose everything you know about the subject but form it in a way that people can get the base idea (the quick fix) and then, if they feel compelled and interested, they can look farther.

In short, take the pressure off the instructor and put it on the student. (Side note, I’m talking about adult learning here. Children aren’t really attuned to knowing what it is they NEED to learn for the most part and wouldn’t be able to comply very well with this model.)

  • Is this a problem? I feel like it’s harder to get a deep conversation going, especially in a twitter world. But maybe that’s me. How can we effectively work and learn in an information snacking world?

Snacking is not a problem.  Just like when dealing with food and hunger…are you going to sit down to a 5 course meal every time you are hungry? No way! That is just ridiculous. So why are we expecting people to sit down for hours worth of training every time they need to learn something?

I have not sat through hours of training in years (lucky me) and I’m functioning VERY well. I am learning new things every day because I snack CONSTANTLY. And the funny thing is, one snack often leads to another and to another and to another and usually each snack is something I can put to use right away rather than information that just sits around for me to forget.

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  1. Joyce
    February 6, 2010 at 10:13 pm

    I believe there is a problem for kids in a world where snacking on information is the norm. It will be important for parents and teachers to help kids to get into deep conversations with text in its various multimedia forms. The opportunities must be provided for kids so that they don’t grow up to be superficial thinkers. We experience narrow-mindedness all too often when adults who snack and only snack on information, quote factoids but have nothing to back “it” up.

    • Sue
      February 6, 2010 at 10:23 pm

      That was why I specified I was speaking to adult learning.

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