The Information Jungle

The Information Jungle


Learning is not what it used to be..” – if you hear someone lamenting thus, it is easy to brand them as nostalgists. But even the deeply unromantic would agree that this is true and is even an understatement. 

Yes – Learning and Teaching have changed so much over the past couple of decades. 

The jungle of knowledge

The image of a teacher, standing tall on a pedestal and doling out pearls of wisdom to the innocent and eager pupils in front, had been the symbol of Education from ancient times to the recent past. The teacher possessed knowledge, acquired through years of dedicated learning and contemplation. She gave it out in the form of grand theories, formulae, tips, tricks, stories and insights and the learners diligently lapped them up. Back home, the students churned together all those things they thus gathered and brewed them into a problem-solving elixir. They often took generous help from parents, private tutors, siblings, neighbors and whoever else they could get help from. Thus you could, in some ways, say – it took a ‘village’ to educate a child.

Boy, has the World changed now! 

Guru - the traditional teacher and disciples

A key role the teacher had played was that of an information filter. She was expected to filter the right information from the wrong one – almost like how the mythical Swan separated milk from water. But now the teacher is only one of the channels of information. The students in the class are not those innocent souls anymore – but are informed and often corrupted by the information revolution. The information the teacher had accrued over years is now available to them just half-a-click away. These range from the crisp and engaging video monologues of Sal Khan (the Khan Academy fame) to the many phony Youtube videos peddling pseudo-sciences. It is really an information jungle out there! 

The kids languishing in this jungle cannot often tell the life-giving plants from the poisonous ones. They are lost between the real paths and the camouflaged traps – often not even knowing that they are lost.

Many teachers are not equipped to deal with this new world either. Many are also intimidated by the new landscape. 

The ‘village’ also cannot help anymore – with the problems looking so different and the tools and techniques so unfamiliar. They are petrified by the new world that is intruding their children through mobile phones and even the television.

So how does one cope in this world? 

The teacher cannot stay at the pedestal and look tall anymore. She has to hike along with the students, tuning in to the murmurs and shadows of the ‘jungle’. She has to handle the unpredictability of the jungle, using her wisdom to decide which paths to take and which ones to avoid. She may have to rein in the raw enthusiasm of the students that tempts them to take some of the dangerous paths, but not quelling their curiosity to look for new ones. She has to be open to the possibility of new paths being unveiled and some even being made. After all, as they say, in a jungle, paths are made by the wishes and feet of the trekkers.

The students can no longer expect learning to be the simple-minded tracing of preset paths in a mapped-out garden. Learning will have to emulate the complexity and uncertainty they have to face in the real world. They need to be able to quickly comprehend an unfamiliar landscape and figure out how best to move forward, towards a goal. They need to be able to manage the complexity of ill-defined and undefined learning pathways and then chose the ones that suit their individual appetites and aptitudes. Every turn in the journey could pose new choices and new opportunities. What they really need to learn is: “how to learn” – how to cope in the information jungle on their own terms!

The world may look scary – but like anything that is scary, it is also exciting! 


About the Author

Sankar is the founder and CEO of Silver Pi.
He had worked in Banking and Technology for about three decades before switching to Education. He is an Electrical Engineer by training, with a career in Technology and Banking across Japan, USA, Singapore and India.

Sankar's interests include Holistic Learning, Technology-enabled learning, Mathematics, Science and Scientific approach, Financial Literacy, Poetry, Cultural travel, Folklore & Folklife, Japanese language & culture etc.


  1. Manju S - Reply

    Learning is and should be about how to learn. Learning is decison making ,problem solving……..It is about deciding to learn or gather information , gather all the data and of the lot,most crucial….learn to filter the most essential. Pick out the best and align them. Draw implications and thus it gets ingrained.

    • Sankar M - Reply

      Well said, Manju.
      The schooling should let students practice this ‘model of learning’. Unfortunately, the existing ‘models’ in most mainstream systems are not aligned with this thinking. In my opinion, the IB (International Baccalaureate) system comes closest to this – both in terms of theory and practice. But as with any system, the proof is in the pudding (effective implementation at the individual school level)…

  2. Syamala - Reply

    Loved this article. This is a topic worth many many engaging discussions involving all the stakeholders.
    One thing I have noticed during my interactions with undergraduate students is how information overload through the internet can make students confused as well as overconfident.
    It is painful to come across with some enthusiastic and hardworking youngsters and notice that they have zero conceptual clarity. Often they are stuck with fancy terminology and superficial understanding of those terms. It takes investing in careful interactions with them without impacting their ego/confidence to make some of them realise this.
    In most cases, it is a tightrope walk for mentors as well as students.

    • Sankar M - Reply

      Thanks Syamala. I can fully identify with your observations.
      The situation is somewhat like that of the news in the media. There is so much of ‘news’ out there, but if you look for something that helps people develop clarity about the world, you will be hugely disappointed. As you rely more and more on ‘headlines’, you lose the depth, big picture, perspectives, complexity and subtlety. More importantly, you lose the ‘why’ of the news. You get lost among the trees and not see the forest.
      This, I feel, is precisely what is happening with learning as well.

  3. Chandrika Kumar - Reply

    Today’s learners seek a learning environment that is not as obsolete as traditional classrooms but that is specifically engineered to support thinking. They prefer the learning environment that pushes their learning capacity with altering strategies and teaching practices. They want to be a part of an impactful learning setting that provides a sense of achievement while they can be adaptive and interactive with fellow learners as well as instructors. In brief, they want to be active and engaged players throughout the learning course. And I strongly feel that is an encouraging trend . True that the learning facilitator needs to be well equipped . But then , there is nothing that should have that ‘Know all” aura about him/ her

    • Sankar M - Reply

      Thank you madam.
      I fully agree with your comment. There is definitely an encouraging trend in the attitudes of the learners as well as the teachers / facilitators.
      But I feel that it is not broad and deep enough. Much of the mainstream Education is still entrenched in the older ways (probably many are struggling with more mundane issues). The problem is also rooted in more fundamental issues like student and teacher incentivization, issues with assessments, lack of employer participation in Education etc.

      Regarding the ‘know all’ aura, I don’t think there is a deliberate aura the teacher is trying to put on. But due to the decades of conditioning under the older model – in many cases, there is still an expectation on both sides, for the teacher to be ‘know all’. In the process, more harder parts of the learning (i.e., problem solving) is still part of ‘home work’. This is where a paradigm change is needed (eg: flipped classrooms).

      These are things we hope to further bring to this discussion table. Thank you!

  4. Sreejith - Reply

    Very relevant article in these times of information explosion. Another important aspect to survival is to be versatile enough to learn continuously and to have the ability to acquire completely new skills at any point in the life.

    • Sankar M - Reply

      Thanks Sreejith.
      Absolutely – ‘lifelong’ and ‘life-worthy’ learning is another critical topic – which we hope to talk of in the near future.

  5. Madan - Reply

    Well said Sankar. Indeed it as you say “ in a jungle, paths are made by the wishes and feet of the trekkers.” and there are so many paths to get lost among the many enlightening ones
    A teacher’s job will change to charting a proper route map for the students and equipping them with the navigation and bearings to enjoy the trek and come out fitter and wiser


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