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. What 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 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.
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.
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?
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.