Powering the Global Education Conversation: About edCircuit

Facts Are Not Knowledge, Just As Crude Oil Is Not Rocket Fuel

Data is accumulating at an exponential rate, but it needs a teacher’s help to become useful knowledge for students.

The comparison of facts to oil is compelling. Oil is inert and stored in the earth’s crust until it is mined and refined into a usable energy source. Facts are inert and need mining and refining to become useful.

The problem is this. We are focusing our entire educational budget of over $620b according to NCES statistics ($12,000+ for each student), exclusively on transmitting facts. We do not seem to be spending anything on teaching the skills necessary to mine and refine those facts.

Until our educational policy-makers acknowledge that data is our latest natural resource – but useless until mined and refined – we will continue to fight the last war.

Of course, it’s the electronic-digital age that is responsible for this explosion of data. What was not born digital is being digitized – one of Google’s missions – and data that is born digital stays that way. Both are waiting to be made useful.

Data is just that – data. It has no intrinsic meaning or usefulness. Like buried coal or oil it is inert; it is static and useless to us. It does, however, have enormous potential. It has incalculable possibilities. These possibilities are only actualized when conditions become favorable for the potential to become realized, valuable and useful.

So one way of describing the role of the Teacher should be “Trainer of Prospectors.” Showing students how to use all the tools at their disposal – facts and thinking skills and curiosity – to locate, mine and refine data until it becomes useful distributed knowledge.

After all, those are exactly the skills businesses and employers of all kinds need. They need people who can mine established facts, analyze those facts, synthesize those facts with new knowledge, and propose novel solutions.

Teachers are not to blame for being asked to teach and test students only the retention of facts. It’s the law and adding or subtracting to the curriculum means breaking the law and there are consequences. Finland does the exact opposite and gets much better results.


There is something teachers can do. BEFORE telling students to open their “textbooks,” organize them into self-directed teams and ask them to analyze through questioning why what they are doing is valuable.

If you teach algebra or history, ask your students to decide for themselves why algebra or history is important; that way they buy-in to the need for them to learn algebra or history. The same goes for any subject. It’s the Terego Method™.

How do you learn the Terego Method™? Invest 7 minutes watching this narrated video of an actual session on the subject of “Why Thinking Is Important?”


Alex Terego  After 40 successful years in the hi-tech business, during which he participated in all phases of computing, beginning with IBM and culminating in selling his voice mail company, Alex became an early thought-leader in 21st Century skills development. He developed his Terego  Method™ when teaching Critical Thinking at the Thunderbird School of Global Management and the Eller Graduate School of Business at the University of Arizona.

The program is now available at no cost for schools. Click to see this narrated video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KnumpVhywfs It is an investment of seven minutes of your time to discover how you can teach students to think for themselves and in teams.

Follow me on Twitter @alex_terego

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