The word aboutitis was quoted by Professor David Perkins (1998), one of the founders of Harvard’s Project Zero. Let me explain, aboutitis is a disease that plagues education where the learner knows a lot ‘about’ the subject and knows about everything. Another way of describing aboutitis is that the learner has a lot of knowledge but no understanding of the knowledge. In the present context, aboutitis can be considered a plague as everyone is out there to know more about everything, out there to collect more degrees, certificates and diplomas, just to prove that they know a lot ‘about’ a lot! Hence, the world is suffering from aboutitis.
In the pursuit of aboutitis, the world has made a very profitable business about education; developed an opinion about everything; written books about everything; researched about everything. After exhibiting the initial symptoms of aboutitis, the world has quickly tested positive for aboutitis. The best example is social media; it is a place where people exhibit that they suffer from aboutitis; everyone has an extreme opinion about every topic and they make it into a vulgar display of knowledge NOT understanding.
In a world suffering from aboutitis, everyone knows everything about everything; is it a good thing? It is actually a very dangerous thing, in fact, an ailment as aboutitis compels people to limit themselves to knowledge and never reach the stage of understanding. People are so engrossed in flaunting their knowledge that they do not bother to test its power by applying it or understanding it.
Understanding is more than just knowledge. Understanding is the ability to critically think about knowledge and being able to apply it in different contexts. Understanding is the ability to apply knowledge to solve problems, to analyse data, to interpret meaning, to evaluate information and to think about knowledge. Hence I would like to quote understanding as Applytitis as it is an ability to apply knowledge in various contexts.
The 21st-century skills demand us to have the symptoms of applytitis; to gain the depth of knowledge, not the breadth; to apply it to create solutions; to design sustainability in systems and to make critical use of knowledge. Applytitis is about taking knowledge to the level of understanding; understanding different perspectives, understanding the past to predict the future, understanding coexistence, understanding compassion and understanding rights and responsibilities.
The transition from aboutitis to applytitis has been the aim of education in many systems and countries but unfortunately, this objective is getting lost in bureaucracy, politics and profit mongering. It has come down upon us educators to keep the essence of education alive, to ensure we are teaching applytitis and not aboutitis. Teaching learners to apply their knowledge needs to be built with a conscious, deliberate and urgent resolve to go beyond exam preparation and incite the inquisitiveness in the learner. By teaching the opportunity to discover applytitis, educators can unleash a generation of learners who will be able to harness the power of knowledge.
Applytitis is to understand knowledge in a way that it can be used to achieve critical thinking. Let us, as educators pledge to take education to the next level where each learner can rise above mediocrity and attain maturity with both knowledge and understanding. The journey from aboutitis to applytitis is the onus of the 21st-century educators. How do we do that? Let’s start by planning for applytitis…