Google – The Learning Finish Line?

If only I had a dime for every time I said “Hold on – I’ll Google it” …

But is google turning us into “passive acceptors of ideas or facts?” as Grade 3 teacher Janelle Preston suggests. A google search may have the potential to spark learning and grow curiosity but how often do you take your google search this far?

Should schools teach anything that can be googled? 

Selling Your Soul to Google
Well…let’s not go that far. But perhaps I’ve traded my long term memory for the ease of technology doing the work. Besides, why should I bother thinking for myself when Google can do all of that hard thinking work for me? Although it has made my life easier – I feel as though I drew the short end of the stick. cfeec6a7a471c205dcd7a7f4c835d6df.pngWhat does this mean for learning? Is google limiting the extent in which we explore questions? Let’s hope not, however statistics show that “The average number of Google searches per day has grown from 9,800 in 1998 to over 4.7 trillion today.” With the world at our finger tips I believe the ability to think critically is more important than ever before. Today, anyone with a cell phone has immediate access to information available in their pockets – information often forgotten as quickly as the time it took to discover the answer. But as the video How the Internet is Changing Your Brain suggests that Google amnesia may be problematic and schools are now teaching students not the value of knowing everything, but the value of using the information they have by connecting curriculum to real life.

I question what our schools, our lives and our world would be like if merely taught students things that could be googled. Would children grow into adults without the ability to analyze information, make connections, form opinions and articulate their thinking in a way that demonstrates a deeper level of understanding? Perhaps most importantly, could they apply these facts or knowledge to new situations having only memorized a piece of information? I believe that focusing on the memorization of facts alone can be dangerous for the development of a young mind. Critical thinking and developing a deeper understanding of the how and why behind the fact is, in my opinion, more important than being able to recite it from memory itself. What good is knowing an answer if you don’t actually understand the reasoning behind it?

I Don’t Know. (Insert shoulder shrug here)
Student: 2 +3 = 5
Teacher: How do you know what?
Student: I don’t know, it’s just what it is.
Teacher: What are the 3 major functions that are basic to plant growth and development?
Student: I know, I know! Photosynthesis, respiration and transpiration.
Teacher: Exactly – But what is really happening? What does that mean?
Student: I don’t know.

i-dont-know-google-it_1073
I don’t know! I don’t know! I don’t know! As teachers we hear this all too often. I’m continually posing questions in an attempt to spark knowledge and grow curiosity, but it worries me that my students are not doing the same and asking these questions for themselves. It’s a challenge to break others habit of searching for the answer before even thinking about the answer. The problem isn’t with the response “I don’t know”, but rather the lack of curiosity and interest in exploring the unknown for themselves. When I was in grade 3/4, if the teacher posed a question we put our fashionable (at least in my eyes) “thinking caps” on and used comprehension strategies like drawing on prior knowledge, asking questions and creating mental images, make and adjust predictions and explored topics until we reached the answer on our own first. I worry because today I feel “I don’t know” is  often quickly followed by “Can I google it Ms. C?” Having the answers so readily available is at times both a blessing and a curse.

Google Search Vs. Giving the Old Brain a Good Workout…
We quickly forget the answers to the questions we google because these pieces of information often don’t make it into our long term memory. Although our fingers (and of course our phones) did the most work to generate the answer, our brains did not. In order to think critically, or brain relies on the information in our long-term memory to make connections to the world around us. I worry that Google is not only changing how we think, but perhaps more importantly the way we store information. After all, short term memory is most used by google users and as our reading suggests “browsing prepares for skimming instead of learning.” Perhaps I no longer have to store information in my long term memory, because Google can do that for me. I often catch myself relying on a Google search, or my auto-dial to find the answers to my problem, or the phone numbers of my  loved ones (numbers I once knew by the way!) without having to think for myself. Personally, losing my independence to a Google search engine or an electronic phone book is a terrible feeling.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the being able to find answers to the random questions that go through my head in line at the grocery store at the click of a button, but I question whether this way of accessing information is creating a virtual finish line for learning. I find the answer, I close the app, and I continue with my day without having to think for myself. Is this really learning?  What happens to our ability to think critically if we always take the easiest route to an answer – a Google search.

Blooms Taxonomy 
I believe memorization still has a place in our learning, but is only just the beginning of the learning process. Those whom solely expect students to memorize and regurgitate answers are only hurting students. Memorization, or a google search for that matter, should never be the end of the learning process. I teach younger students, and we often create fun songs, raps and rhymes to remember pieces of information – but this is almost always during the first or second lesson of a topic. Once they have a general understanding of what something is, I can dive deeper into a topic, scaffold their learning using an inquiry approach and create higher order thinking. I believe it’s what you do with that information after you remembered it that is important.  Memorization has it’s place, but we must build upon that information to reach the analyzing, evaluating and creating phases of learning.

Blooms_Taxonomy_pyramid_cake-style-use-with-permission.jpg

I believe both learning facts and developing critical thinking go hand-in-hand. Without one or the other students may be missing a major piece of the learning puzzle – and Nemo likely would never have been found.

Now Let’s Take Everything You Just Learned and Flip It Upside Down…
Flipping Blooms Taxonomy?
Have you ever thought critically yourself about models like Bloom’s Technology? Shelly Wright thinks that the revised Bloom’s Taxonomy model is wrong.

In the article, Flipping Bloom’s Taxonomy, Shelly proposes that “Rather than starting with knowledge, we start with creating, and eventually discern the knowledge that we need from it. I think the narrowing pyramid also posits that our students need a lot more focus on factual knowledge than creativity, or analyzing, or evaluating and applying what they’ve learned. And in a Google-world, it’s just not true.”

If Google is in-fact changing the way we learn, maybe it is beneficial to  reconsider how the framework is organized?

bloom_pyramid-2

Are you second guessing everything you once knew? Good! Because that’s what learning is and should be about. If you’re anything like me, your mind may be a little blown right now. Although this model, like most things, may have its flaws, learning should challenge us in the way Shelly’s proposed flipped model has. One thing I do know for sure is this last debate has really provoked some interesting discussions and has certainly challenged me to think critically. What do you think about the flipped model of Bloom’s Taxonomy?

As the education pendulum continues to swing, I believe we as teachers must not rely on one approach alone. Critical thinking should  build from previous knowledge (which also includes memorized pieces of information – or google-able facts) and therefore both play a role in learning. Diving deeper, analyzing, evaluating and questioning and creating may be more hard work, but it’s also creating new connections in the brain. I can’t justify that memorization without understanding is truly learning. Teaching facts that can be googled is important because it provides a starting point for learning to occur – but it certainly should not be the finish line.

 

 

Does Technology Really Enhance Learning?

It’s a question that’s commonly debated on social media platforms, and has opened a great level of interesting discussion in my ECI830 Contemporary Issues in Educational Technology class earlier this week. 64% of Grad Students in ECI830 felt that technology enhances learning, while 36% felt it does not. I have to admit, I was rather surprised that the number of educators in favor of technology wasn’t higher, which proves this question continues to be a controversial topic.

I strongly believe that technology does enhance learning, although I grapple with this phrase “enhance learning” as there are a great deal of factors that contribute to learning. How can I really be sure my students quality of learning improves solely on the use of technology alone with so many other factors at play? Studies are continually being produced to prove technology supports learning, or hinders learning – it can be a bit of a research roller coaster with valid concerns on each side of the debate. However, I could more easily relate to Kyle, Erin and Jeremy‘s argument during Tuesday night’s Great Debate, that technology does in fact enhance learning – if used appropriately and purposefully. One thing I can be sure of is that technology has completely changed the way my students and I learn, in the best way possible!

As Erin suggests in her latest post, “this is our generation of learners, a generation of “digital natives”. When deciding where you stand on the topic, I urge you to consider consider the voice of our students – the active learners – and how the world in which they learn and communicate has changed since we were in their shoes as students.

Technology Enhances Learning…But What About Teaching?
What I do know from personal experience in my role as a Grade 3/4 teacher is that technology certainly enhances my teaching – there’s no question about it! Technology creates inquiry based opportunities that I would never have imagined possible during my time as a student. We can take virtual field trips, explore topics deeper at the click of a button, and communicate with experts from around the world. This opens the door for what can be possible in the classroom and in turn creates a much higher level of student engagement and quality discussion. Not to mention the limitless ways to network with other educators and opportunities to engage in professional development from home. Technology has opened the door for quality resources for teachers to improve their practice, which in turn enhances the student learning experience. 

Technology Levels the Playing Field
I’m highly in favor of technology in the classroom because I see the equal opportunities it creates for students with learning disabilities in my classroom every single day. Assistive Technology has helped create a greater level of independence for students, and in turn boosts their self-esteem and confidence in completing learning tasks. As the article “Using Assistive Technology in Teaching Children with Learning Disabilities in the 21st Century” suggests, assistive technology can “Enhance specific skills” and allows students to “participate in an equal basis with their peers.” FM listening systems, graphic organizers, speech to text technology and Google Read and Write have helped to level the playing field in my classroom and enhance student learning.

Be Proactive & Take Learning into Your Own Hands
Yes, teachers need more training on how to effectively utilize technology and with continuous cuts to our education system, appropriate funding anytime soon appears bleak. There is nothing more frustrating to me then seeing dusty computers being under-utilized by teachers, however many teachers do no feel comfortable using technology in the classroom. I challenge these teachers to A) Dust your classroom then B) Start exploring one step at a time! What’s the worst that can happen? Limited training has not hindered my ability to research, connect and learn what tools may assist my students – thanks to technology! Technology itself can allow teachers to find the answers to many questions and problems that we encounter in our daily practice. As teachers we need to be willing to grow and change with the fast paced technological world we live in.

“Students are More Interested in Snap-Chat than Learning..”
But Does It Have To Be This Way?

The distractions of Snap-chat, Instagram, Facebook, and you name it, are not disappearing anytime soon. Even as an adult, dare I say I too get distracted by these tools from time to time during my “homework”?  Even without technology, there will always be students who are distracted by a simple paper clip and an eraser – trust me! This is a reality for teachers and students alike, which poses a problem in many classrooms.

Although I’m all for using tech in the classroom, I also recognize the problems many teachers face with accessibility (including limited funding and training), battling those darn internet connections, overcoming the struggle of limited servers and limiting student distractions all at the same time. Personally, I think all teachers need to assess their use of tech and question whether or not the way they use technology in the classroom is a productive tool for learning. I believe teachers need to become comfortable to take risks and step outside of their comfort zone (an on-going theme for me this year) when it comes to using technology in order to work towards the redefinition stages of the SAMR model (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition) and use tech in more meaningful ways. Where are you on the SAMR model?  Consider the possibilities if what students were doing in the classroom was MORE interesting than snap-chat or Facebook? How can we make that happen?

But what does the SAMR model really look like in the classroom?   I recommend checking out these 8 Examples of Transforming Lessons Through the SAMR Cycle to better understand how lessons and assessment can be transformed through the stages from substitution to the goal of redefinition.

Deal With Distractions
One of the largest arguments against the use of tech in classrooms is the increased distraction during learning. Technology is not going anywhere so let’s teach our students how their devices can be a powerful learning tool. Technology can be a powerful tool if used in the right way and we need to inspire our students by showing them what can be possible when they choose to steer themselves in the direction towards success. Instead of being Negative Ned’s and ban technology from the classroom, try exploring ways to deal with digital distractions in class. As the article 7 Ways to Deal with Digital Distractions by Leah Levy suggests, “Teach students accountability and peer pressure around good use”. When students are disengaged, I question whether I have done a good enough job modelling the right things and are why is it that my students are not truly engaged in the task?  How can I redesign the task to create more student interest and ownership over their own learning?

My favorite of Levy’s suggestions is to “Use their unique distraction styles to spark learning“.  Levy poses the question “Is there a way to embrace that unique and attractive distraction to create a learning opportunity? An avid texter, for example, might be invited to write an entire story via text, while gamers could create a script for their very own game. Both of these kinds of projects are creative and will necessitate logical organization and development in their own right; however, perhaps more importantly, for reluctant writers, they can be used as a “bridge” exercise. That is, an exercise that engages them intuitively while allowing you as the teacher to impart fundamental lessons about argument and thesis construction, character development, descriptive writing, dialogue, and so forth. This can then be translated in a follow-up exercise into more traditional essay and fictional writing that a student will be required to master for the Common Core and other standards.” The potential for distractions are always present but there are many helpful suggestions out there to help tackle these challenges head on and luckily the technology to find the answers!

 

But what do the students themselves think about all of this anyway?
 Check out the student perspective here!

Great Things Never Come From Comfort Zones…

Hi New EC&I 830 Friends,

My name is Tayler Cameron and I’m thrilled to be learning alongside such a fun, outgoing group of grad students this semester! This is my third class in my journey through the Master’s program, and my first (ever) online class. The fear of the unknown had me a tad unsure whether or not I would be a good candidate for online studies, but after our first class I’m excited to step out of my comfort zone, jump in with both feet and get started!

I teach Grade 3/4 at Gladys McDonald School and love every minute of it! Over the past 3 years I’ve had the pleasure of teaching grade 2 at Jack MacKenzie School,  as well as grades 3/4, and 4/5 at GMS. I love how technology allows my students and I to stay connected to our community of families by providing a virtual window into our classroom each week.

Dog with a blog
Anything to motivate these kiddos!

It’s common for students in my school to take family trips to Pakistan and India, among other destinations, for months at a time. Using tools like  KidBlog allows my students stay connected with classmates while showcasing their writing for an audience and learning about being responsible digital citizens. Not to mention, they go crazy for writing when my pup, Gracie, comments on their blogs or leaves a very opinionated post – dog with a blog style!

My relationship with technology is a bit complicated. I love using technology,especially in my classroom, but I often become frustrated with how few laptops are available, or the dreaded “Too many servers are being used” pop-up that interferes with my lesson plans – but that’s life. I try my best to be proactive in avoiding these issues and not let it inhibit my use of technology in the classroom.In my opinion, the benefits of using technology far outweigh these minor annoyances.

The simplicity of using Planboard and saying goodbye to my wasteful paper plans has completely changed my life and made my planning so much more efficient! I will never go back to the “Old School” planning books again.We do interactive brain breaks daily (Love Go Noodle for that!),  “Flocabulary’s Rap Jr.” for Current Events (My class loves singing along) and Google Read & Write has been a great tool in my classroom – especially for my reluctant writers who benefit from speech to text technology. I use technology often but sometimes feel overwhelmed like I’m falling behind with the latest and greatest apps, programs and websites. I have many things on my “tech-to-do-list” to try in the classroom that I haven’t yet (ie. online portfolios, classroom twitter account and connecting with other classrooms). I’ve come to realize that as much as I would like to, I can’t do everything at the same time so I hope to tackle these things one step at a time in the next year. I’m also looking forward to learning some new tools this semester that I can add to my list! If you haven’t already noticed, I have a bit of an unhealthy obsession with making lists!

yoga pic

Yoga PicDuring my first year of teaching I started practicing yoga in an attempt to find balance in my crazy hectic teacher life. I’m not sure there is anything better than rolling out my mat in a quiet room after a loud, busy day.  This “dog with a blog” has been a little shadow on my mat ever since.

I also love to read, run,  and occasionally binge watch a series of (Hmm, where do I even begin?) on Netflix. I enjoy the great outdoors and visiting the family farm where I grew up when I can. I can’t wait to challenge my own thinking this semester, learn some new tools and meet some new faces along the way.

Looking forward to a great semester!
Feel free to follow me on Twitter here and see you all in the zoom room!

-Tayler

After thought:
I just realized after reading my comments that I forgot my most favorite tool I use in the classroom – the online Penseive! It’s a place to store all of your notes about students’ reading and writing (or whatever subjects you wish to document!). You can plug in what strategy you are working on with each student and the “next steps” for instruction. Each time I meet with a reader I keep my laptop beside me so I can write a few sentences about their reading behaviors afterwards. It has made report cards SO much easier because I can pull up all of my notes on each student and summarize my observations and their progress. I believe a year’s subscription is $39, but the first month is free and it’s definitely worth trying! I’ve been using it for 3 years and I can’t imagine not using it now! Seriously – it’s a gem!