Monday, 30 May 2016

Schools Should Not Be Teaching Googlable Material

Going into this debate I felt like saying what's wrong with using google?  I think their is nothing wrong with using the search engine as a daily tool.  Some students need to learn how to use that tool, similar to how a student needs to learn how to work a calculator properly.

Right now within my class we are working on an inquiry based project around what technology will look like in the future.  I have groups working on projects based around futuristic furniture, to the advancement and security protocols of social media, to the ever illusive hover crafts.  With this in mind I appreciated the debate around whether or not we should be teaching material that can be googled.

The article on How Google Impacts The Way Students Think was thought provoking.  The main topics hit home some of the struggles I have with my students throughout the inquiry process

  • Google creates the illusion of accessibility
    • The article puts it as bluntly as I told my students... If your question you typed into the google task bar is answered on our open search it was probably a low level question
  • Google naturally suggests "answers"as stopping points
    • This is a part of every inquiry project that I have to ask my students how do they know the information is true, accurate, appropriate and truly answers their questions.  
  • Being linear, Google obscures the interdependence of information
    • This is where we truly get into the learning phase of our inquiry projects in that they students begin to decide whether they want to dig deeper and find the meaning or if they want to simply share information without understanding it.  
I typically run into the problem of reading wikipedia multiple times as my students "sources"

As I continued on my venture with the agree side I checked out their link to How the Internet is Changing Your Brain, which I found to be a very profound video and demonstrated some very good reasons why retaining information is becoming increasingly difficult for learners.  I understand that retaining is difficult for everyone and it is not always the specific information but more so the process and how to do things that is the difficult task.

This brought me to the disagree side I began to feel very confident in the concept that with proper google skills why not let the students learn through the tool.  Their main focus seemed to be around rote memory/memorization.  Now personally I am a proponent of students coming into grade 8 with their basic math facts down, their multiplication tables known at an automatic level.  These I feel are "basic facts" that should be known.  If these aren't known I am willing to make the appropriate adaptations for those specific individuals who need them, such as a multiplication chart, or a calculator for these basic facts.  Again I feel it is more about the process than the outcome.

I have to agree with the disagree side in that memorization is not a bad thing.  We need it in most of our daily lives, most of us probably don't even notice when we are using many of the skills we "memorized" when we were kids.  Now in terms of a chemistry 20 class having to memorize the periodic table, or an English class having to know exactly how to cite a journal article in proper APA version 6 format... Why?  Why do we need to have theses things memorized?  This is something that is easily googlable and when I need that information I can use my conceptual knowledge of how to find and source good information to learn/relearn/recall the proper processes for these tasks.

So in terms of what side of the fence do I sit on... Well I am starting to realize that Alec and Katia have purposely worded the debate positions in such a way that we are always going to juxtaposed.  I agree that rote memorization is good for many daily skills, but I also side with the fact that some people's brains do not function like the majority and they need extra tools.  I don't agree with teaching material that can be simply put into google and the answer found by one simple google search.  We need to be teaching students the processes of how to find information and how to break down, synthesize, analyze then come to their own conclusions.

So my fence is realigned with the following statement.  We need to teach students how to properly use the tools they have at their fingertips, whether that be a calculator for math facts or a search engine for an inquiry project.