The first of two debates this week focused on the topic of schools not teaching anything
that can be googled. To convince us of this argument, Luke, Ashley, and Andrew teamed up and presented a wide variety of arguments that really made me reflect on the true disadvantages of schools teaching things that can be googled.
What particularly stood out in their argumentation was the actual harm that google can have on the way students think. Students tend to rely so heavily on google that it limits their creativity, gives them a false sense of knowledge, and sets them on a path of linear learning. Furthermore, some studies have shown that students tend to remember less information than before. This is because they thought they could easily access it whenever they needed to, and therefore didn’t need to remember it.
How does this have an impact in the classroom? If students can simply google whatever they are taught, they learn less and, more importantly, they aren’t learning the appropriate process. As my colleagues so eloquently noted, we should be teaching kids to wonder and to find things themselves. When they google things, they remember how to find the information, not the information itself. Students should learn to construct meaning of the world through experiences and critical thinking skills. We should promote curiosity, let students ask questions, and let them solve those problems that can’t be solved by a quick Google search.
This encouragement of experiential learning made me think back to the Middle Years Conference this year and its keynote speaker, Dave Burgess. His method of Teaching Like A Pirate, which you can follow actively on Twitter with the #tlap hastag. It is all about creating an experience, encouraging creativity, and developing knowledge from these situations. This was a conference that stayed with me all year, and I continue to think of how I can ‘teach like a pirate’ on a daily basis.
Convincingly, they noted that technology is not in fact the enemy, nor is memorization. There is a place for memorization of basic facts that can be googled. Practice makes perfect, and we must teach basic skills to advance in life and in deeper thinking. Once these basic facts and skills can be developed, then students can delve into deeper forms of thinking. There are also those situations in which memorization is key – as in memorizing important phone numbers (even though most people have a cell phone) as well as the alphabet. Being able to have transferable skills is an important value in life, and one that should be taught in school, even if these skills and knowledge can be googled. Students need a solid foundation of knowledge and skills to use before being able to focus on that thought-process that is so essential for fostering creativity and engagement.
Okay, well now I’m back on the fence.
Both sides defended their point of view well, and even though the disagree team of Amy and Heidi took the win this time, I don’t think, yet again, that this is a black and white argument. There needs to be a balance somewhere in between the two ideas. I don’t think schools should avoid everything that is google-able; some concepts, some key basic pieces of knowledge and skill, need to be taught in schools, even if they can be found on google. To push ideas further, to grow our critical thinking skills, and to develop the essential thought-processes that can’t be googled, we need the foundation. Throughout this week, I have been thinking of this through a Social Studies lens. If I were to teach about Canadian history, for example, I would evidently speak to important events that have transpired in Canadian past. These can be googled. However, these basic facts could lead into important discussions, inquiry-based learning models, and critical thinking skills that can’t be googled. Both sides work together to bring together a well-formed, technological age of education.
Then again, perhaps I wasn’t asking myself the important questions during this debate. As Danielle, Stephanie, and other colleagues have mentioned in their posts (which, may I say, have been so great to read thus far!), engagement can only go so far if the task is not meaningful for the students. Google or not, students need to be engaged in their learning. We have to foster an environment, working with Google and without, that encourages deeper learning and critical thought, one that, as Stephanie said, fully engages the student in making meaningful and lasting knowledge connections (written so well, I had to take her very own words!). Is that not what we want to achieve as teachers? Shouldn’t the focus be on how we can use Google to develop lasting knowledge connections for the students to make on their own?
Therefore, yes, studies show that Google may not be helping students remember information. They also show the importance of memorization in school, and the memorization of facts that can be googled. What I take from it is there needs to be a balance between Google and rote memory work. Both have their place in the classroom; each teacher needs to find the place that works for them and their students. We are all very much aware that one recipe does not work for all; we should apply this to the concept of using Google in the classroom, or the teaching of things that can be googled.
How do you use Google in your classroom? What kind of time do you spend teaching things that can be googled, or memory work, versus time spent developing the thought-process and a deeper understanding of the concepts at hand? I am curious to see how it is used in a variety of different classrooms, in a variety of different settings and grade levels!
Stay tuned for the next blog topic on debate number 3: Technology is making kids unhealthy. It was quite the debate!