Education Opinion

When Searching Leads to Powerful Learning

By Beth Holland — June 24, 2016 2 min read
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Imagine if you could type a few keywords into your brain and instantly discover everything that you have read, written, watched, or potentially thought. Consider the potential to look across years of education and multiple courses to not only retrieve information but then actually do something with it. While reading the other day, I had a eureka moment: over the course of my first year as a doctoral student, I had created a digital version of my brain that could be searched, tagged, and retrieved.

Here is what happened. As I read an article about the history of leadership theory, I came across a reference to the GLOBE study. I suddenly remembered that I had read about that research program in a different paper at an earlier time. However, I had no recollection of where that paper might be, who wrote it, or why I should remember it.

First, I searched my digital library in Papers3. This application holds every article that I have read and annotated since the start of the school year. By searching globe, I quickly narrowed down the possibilities to 10 of the 200+ papers in my library.

For some reason, I had downloaded a book review of the GLOBE study to gain more background information. However, that did not help me form the connection that I seemed to want to make. Three articles about entrepreneurial leadership also surfaced in my search. Rather than re-read all of them, I just wanted an answer to the question: why do I need to know about this GLOBE study?

I jumped into my OneNote notebook and searched for GLOBE once again. This is where my eureka moment really occurred. In their seminal article, Gupta, MacMillan, and Surie (2004) operationalized their definition of entrepreneurial leadership based on the data from the GLOBE study.

I realize that I am one of the few people on the planet who would be excited about making this connection. However, what struck me most was the speed at which I could find the information. Because all of my notes are digital, organized, tagged, and searchable, in less than a minute, I could make a meaningful connection between two very different scholarly articles.

This brings me back to the original idea: what if you could search your brain? What if, instead of searching through the volumes of the Internet, you could search your own knowledge and ideas so that you could build deeper connections, synthesize more information, and draw different conclusions each time you revisit the content. Imagine if every student approached note taking with this idea of creating a searchable version of their brain, and every teacher approached their course content knowing that it could be technically possible. What would learning start to look like?

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