If like me, you are bombarded with data and information from every imaginable source, you are at times probably feeling overwhelmed. You suddenly realize how much you don’t know about the world.

We now have sophisticated tools to filter through that data and find the pieces we are most interested in, however, we are still constantly being confronted with stories we know nothing about, in countries we weren’t even truly aware existed. We must accept our present condition: we will always be more ignorant than knowledgeable about the world.

Our societies are too complicated and the human lifespan is too short to ever hope to try to bridge that gulf. We need to accept ignorance and handle it graciously.

This doesn’t mean we should revel in our ignorance, but we shouldn’t be bothered when we don’t know the latest trend or some news story, nor should we judge others as “stupid” if they don’t know some factoid. There is a fear that we will enter a conversation not being completely up-to-date, but what is the point of a conversation if all we are exchanging are the facts we already know?

We can consume all the facts in the world and still not comprehend what is really going on. People can be incredibly smart, even brilliant sometimes, and yet still be bad at deep learning. The internet has given us this omniscience that we have never had before, and we suddenly have this ability to see all of the details that we didn’t know about before.

But the key question is: How can we become more purpose-driven learners?

Jonathan Drori a visiting professor at the University of Bristol, posed four questions to science teachers, TV producers, science audiences and seven-year-olds during a TED talk. Surprisingly he found that the seven-year-olds did better than the other audiences.

One of those questions was – Why is it hotter in summer than in winter? We can all agree that it is hotter in summer than winter, but why?

He goes on the say that children get their ideas not from teachers but from common sense from their experiences of the world around .

The challenge is that most of us aren’t actually that good at learning. Sure, we can seek out facts, read news articles and tweets, and even analyze some tough problems.

But we need to develop thinkers, not information processors.

Danny Crichton’s recent article, How Should We Learn explains data is everywhere, and knowledge is accessible on almost any subject imaginable with just a few clicks. Suddenly, we have gone from people ignorant of our own ignorance to content consumers struggling to keep up with the information all around us. We can learn about almost any subject imaginable today, and of course, get the details and data that the internet always offers.

With all this knowledge and data available to us on so many platforms, we wonder why academic institutions still exist. The answer comes down to their ability to teach students both knowledge and wisdom. So far, this combination is not being achieved online or through books. It remains one of the greatest challenges for entrepreneurs in the edtech learning space today.

Hopefully, aided by a new generation of education startups – we can learn how to better navigate in a world where the frontier of knowledge is rapidly expanding and dynamic.

We need to inculcate purpose-driven learning and move away from a model of slurping up all the data in the world.

Copyright 2015 John McGlinchey. All Rights Reserved.