Should we teach things that can be googled?

Last week, I teamed up with two colleagues, Shelby and Amanda to form Team Disagree for the debate statement:

Schools should not focus on teaching things that can be googled.

We created an opening statement video for the debate, and after a strong rebuttal with Team Agree and class discussion, I still strongly support our disagree stance.

Our opening statement video:

To support our argument, we focused on three main points:

  1. Google should be used as a tool to build foundational skills and understand how to verify factual information

  2. Memorization has an important place in developing student learning skills

  3. Google is hindering our ability to concentrate and focus

It is interesting that both Team Agree and Team Disagree mentioned the significance of critical thinking in education. Team Agree focused on the importance of learning to problem solve and develop critical thinking skills as knowledge is changing faster than ever and continues to grow. Furthermore, as stated in one of their suggested articles, students and educators teaching in the 21st century need to learn 21st century competencies. The emphasis should be on content creation instead of reproduction of information, as this will be most beneficial to learner development.

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Similarly, my team (disagree) also focused on the importance of critical thinking and teaching students how to use tools like Google to guide students through the information and think about what they are accessing. In short, teachers need to help guide our students to learn ways to use Google appropriately and develop critical thinking skills. As stated in our team’s suggested article, when students think critically, they actively engage in these processes:

  • Communication
  • Analysis
  • Synthesis
  • Problem-solving
  • Evaluation
  • Reflection

To help students reach these processes, teachers need to prepare a variety of hands-on activities that allow the students to be involved in their learning.  While both Team Agree and Disagree believe that critical thinking is important, we have to teach our students how to develop the skills without Google first. This goes along with the idea of “smart searching” as described in our suggested article.

IMG_0819Instead of just releasing our students into the world of Google, teachers should first model the process for searching online. Since Google is so open and accessible, a good tip is to teach students how to predict results they expect to see.  This way students can evaluate what they are typing in the search box and if they think it will produce the results they want.

In high school, I had a teacher briefly touch on the idea of “smart searching” on Google. Fast-forward a few years later in a university career session, an advisor expressed the importance of “googling yourself”, so you could see what future employers may find about you.

ProtectYourIdentityOnline-600x400.jpgWhen you search Catherine Ready, there is a wide range of results, from websites relevant to me, to articles that simply included the words “Catherine” and “ready” – ready being a very common term! Once I began using a few “smart searching” techniques, I was able to find articles and websites related specifically to me over the last decade. These searching tips are easily found on Google, but it was through the guidance of a teacher that showed me how to use Google in an efficient and effective way in my learning.

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The second point to support our argument is that memorization has a place in learning.  Interestingly, Team Agree spoke to the detrimental effects of rote learning, or simply memorizing through drilling and repetition.

In our research and suggested article, memorization is considered a tool in learning and involves a variety of methods to help students recall and remember information. Rote learning is only one way to commit things to memory and instead students can use techniques like visualization, imagery and mnemonics.

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Growing up, learning through memorization was (and still is) something I loved. I always felt that I had a really good handle on how to memorize, using songs, rhythms, imagery and mnemonics. I also heavily relied on rote memorizing through drilling and repetition of skills like multiplication tables, French vocabulary, science facts, etc. Additionally, I danced, figure skated and took music lessons – all areas that required memorization. My first undergraduate degree was in music with a concentration in piano  and part of the degree requirements included memorizing over an hour of music to be performed in recital.

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Excerpt from Liszt’s Consolation No. 3 (one of my favourites!)

I like to think I mastered the art of memory work and have experienced firsthand how memorization helps learners grow and move beyond the basic level of recall and remembering. Through my strong knowledge basic of facts (from math facts to music theory terms and rules) I have been able to “move up the ladder” of Bloom’s Taxonomy and go deeper into my learning to the more sophisticated levels of analyzing, evaluating and creating.

blooms Taxonomy

But,

as an educator, it would be naive to think that every student would be able to learn and memorize exactly as I did as a student. Since memory work is something that I find simple and enjoyable, I could assume that all students would feel the same way. My job as an educator is to teach students how to memorize and build a knowledge base. One of the suggested articles by Team Agree states that:

“The objective of education is learning, not teaching”.

I agree with this point, but I also understand that we can teach our students how to memorize through hands on activities, especially with song, dance, rhythms, patterns and imagery.

As an arts educator, I am trained in the Orff Schulwerk Approach. This style of music education is a process that encourages students to explore and experience music through singing, movement and playing instruments.  But interestingly enough, all music and songs in the Orff Approach are taught to first be memorized through rote learning and then movement and instruments are added. This is a starting point in music education to develop the musical ear before we introduce music theory and learning to read music and rhythms.

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Students in my classroom learning guitar.

In higher grades, I teach guitar and I require students to memorize a few basic chords so that they can grow and improve their playing more quickly. Sure, they could google the chord every time, or they could commit the chord to memory through repetition, visualizing and practicing the finger placement on the fretboard – a very “hands on” activity. This is much more effective for a developing musician and allows students to eventually move to the creating and composing levels in music.

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Finally, there is research that every time you learn something new, a connection is formed between neurons in the brain. The more you repeat the learning – possibly through memorization – the stronger the connections.  The more you keep something in short term memory, it will eventually be pushed to long-term memory, so therefore practice makes perfect, and memorization is one way to do it.

Our last point to support our argument is that Google is hindering our ability to concentrate. Last week, I touched on how technology has played a distracting role throughout my education. One reason it is more difficult to concentrate is that when we are on the Internet for answers, we can be easily distracted by advertisements, videos, links and other information that is strategically targeted to the user, but unrelated to the topic we are searching. In our suggested article, there is concern that we are relying on skimming rather than deep-reading information.  If we want an answer quickly, all we have to do is “google it” instead of creating our own pathways to learn new information.  The article even goes on to suggest that our brains are changing to adapt to this new form of quick thinking. As educators, it is our responsibility to continue teaching and showing students how to learn and acquire new information. If we go back to our first point, it is important to practice critical thinking skills and teach our students how to use Google effectively.

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At the end of the day, the Internet has no limits to the amount and kind of information that can be accessed by our students. If we did not teach things that could be googled, there would not be anything left to teach! Educators have to find a way to balance a variety of learning techniques (include using Google) and how to incorporate these ideas into 21st century education. With so many ways to learn, access and explore information, we can rely on research to support our teaching methods so we can foster strong critical thinkers and flexible learners.

Until next time,

@Catherine_Ready

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7 thoughts on “Should we teach things that can be googled?

  1. shelbymackey says:

    Catherine, I think you did a very nice job of summing up our debate last week. I appreciate your example of music education and the importance that memorization plays in this skill. If you didn’t first practice enough to get the basic notes down and the feel for rhythm, then how could you possibly begin to learn more complicated pieces or compose for yourself? I find the same thing in math. There are certain formulas and processes that yes, my students could google or find every time they needed them, but if they just know them, it makes the application of what I am asking much quicker and I can get to the reasoning behind the learning much faster than if we had to stop and do the basics every single time! Again, great post and it was a pleasure to work with you! 🙂

    Like

    1. catherineready says:

      Thanks for the comment! Remembering information (possibly through memorization) saves time in the long run. We want our students to reach deeper levels of learning!

      Like

  2. Katie Rosenkranz says:

    Great post clearly supporting your opinion and research! I’m not going to lie… I didn’t know all of those smart search techniques!! So thank you for sharing, I will be able to be much more efficient in my searching and my students will be as well!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. wileywonders says:

    I agree that we need to teach students how to use critical thinking skills before using these skills on technology. I also agree that we need to teach students how to use tech tools efficiently, including Google. The Search Google Like a Pro is awesome. Thanks for sharing. These great tips will help teachers and students to use Google efficiently allowing more time for students to apply critical thinking skills as they won’t have to spend as much time on the searching step. The main focus shouldn’t be the search rather then the deep evaluating of the information that is found.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. catherineready says:

      Thanks for the comment! Google can be a great tool anytime, but even better if we apply some different techniques and strategies.

      Like

  4. jana_wlock says:

    I really enjoyed your post, Catherine! You summarized your side of the debate well, while also considering the opposing side’s viewpoints. I had such a hard time choosing a side this week, and as you noted, there was definitely some common ground reached when discussing the importance of developing critical thinking skills in our students. I really like how you incorporated music education into the memorization conversation – I am a musician as well and I had never considered how critical memorization is when learning a song, instrument, to read music, etc. It really is fundamental and there is definitely still a place for memorization in the learning process. As an LRT, I worry about the kiddos who struggle with working memory, because I see how difficult it is for them to retain and apply knowledge. I think technology helps these students in so many ways which is great to see. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. catherineready says:

      Thanks for your comments! I appreciate your LRT perspective- a good reminder that education is not one-size-fits-all.

      Like

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