In a world where Google has become an almost inextricable component of our society, impacting how we communicate, how we learn and in a remarkable way, the way our daily lives operate, it is undeniable that the information supergiant has had a significant impact on education.
Google World LINK
The first of this week’s debates explored the statement “School should not be teaching anything that can be googled.” This was an interesting conversation that left me with the feeling that, once again, my opinion balances quite steadily on the fence between the two sides.
Should we, as educators, not bother teaching facts and information that a student could easily find online? Perhaps in some instances we don’t need to. For example, being able to recall specific dates and names associated with the history of the Number Treaties in the Canadian West–which could easily be found online– may not be as useful in our students lives as having an understanding of the long term societal impacts of them. I would argue that the year that Treaty 4 was signed and who was present matters significantly less than what the Treaty means for everyone that lives in the area. Yet, is there a place for some of this rote memorization? Are there scenarios in our students’ lives when they may need to be able to recall some specific information? Absolutely. As a construction teacher, I see the benefit in students knowing that a 2×4 is 3 ½ inches wide and understanding how to add, subtract and convert fractions while we plan and complete projects. Yes, one could pull out their phone and look up a conversion chart or find a YouTube video on how to add fractions together to figure out what the combined total length should be, or google the width of a 2×4… but it is not practical. Some knowledge and skills are just more useful to have without relying on Google. Being able to just add 1/16” to ⅝” or know that the width of a 2×4 is not going to add 4” to the end of your wall saves time.
Photo by Ian Temple
Going into the debate and thinking about my own teaching practice, the students that I have worked with and the course I have taught gave me numerous examples that could be used as arguments for either side of the debate. The articles and information shared by the debate groups–both of whom did a great job– served to provide me with some research based reasoning to support both sides and to validate my examples. Neither group pulled me to be a hard supporter of either side.
Both sides of the debate seemed to emphasize that the use of google needed to approached with caution for a few reasons. The agree side shared a video with us about how Google has impacted how our students think and that it is actually changing how our brains function. The article they shared about How Google Impacts The Way Students Think, suggests that “it creates the illusion that answers are always within reach, even when they are not” but that “if users can Google answers to the questions they’re given, they’re likely terrible questions.” They also shared a TedTalk by Ramsey Musallam that served to inspire us as educators to disregard googleable content so that we might no longer just fill “the simple role as dissemination of content and embrace a new paradigm as cultivators of curiosity and inquiry [so that] we just might bring a little bit more meaning to their school day and spark their imaginations.” This group seemed to be trying to emphasize that if we teach content that can be googled, we are not teaching our students to be critical thinkers or problem solvers.
The disagree side emphasized some of the practical reasons for teaching content that students could google. Their first article, When Rote Learning Makes Sense, suggested that given that according to Bloom’s Taxonomy, “effective knowledge acquisition has to come first” and that “thinkers must have knowledge, facts, data or information in their brains to combine into something new, or with which to judge relative importance or value.” Another article that they shared, In the Age of Google, should Schools Teach Memorization Skills, reinforced my example of needing to recall information and skills in the woodshop (as well as in other scenarios), suggesting that students will not always have access to Google, or that it may not be practical to use it.
As with many questions about best practice in education, the debate over whether school should not be teaching anything that can be googled, does not have an evident answer. The arguments for both sides are valid. If we were to replace the word “anything” with “some things,” I would emphatically nod my head in agreement. Is there googleable information taught in schools that is unnecessary for our students’ education? Absolutely. However, there are numerous instances in which information that can easily be found online is better suited to be taught and memorized so students can have a true understanding of it and it can be recalled and put to use in a practical, meaningful way.