Week 2 of The Great #EdTech Debate was filled with some great arguments, discussions and critical thinking! The topic of debate this week was whether or not schools should be focusing on teaching things that can be google. To me, this topic seemed to have the potential to be very divisive, so I was interested to see how the debate played out! After initially reading the topic, my first instinct was to disagree with the statement being made. While I do love technology and think it is a powerful tool to implement in the classroom, I see it as just that, a tool. Additionally, the topic refers specifically to the use of google, not technology in general, a point that I think is important to recognize going into this debate. I don’t think think that Google can replace good old-fashioned teaching, which is why I used my pre-vote to select “disagree”, a decision that the majority of my EDTC 400 classmates chose as well!
As you can see from the pre-vote, 90% of the class voted that they disagreed with the statement that schools should not focus on teaching what can be googled. At this point, it looked as if the advocate arguing in support of this statement would have their work cut out for them. However, when comparing the results of the pre-vote and post-vote, several of my classmates shifted towards the agree side of the debate, with over 25% of the class now supporting the belief that schools should not focus on teaching what can be googled. While many participants stuck with their initial stance, including myself, there is no doubt that the arguments made throughout the debate caused some questions to be raised and encouraged further thought and discussion. I will now take the time to highlight some of the major arguments made on each side, as well as provide my final thoughts on the debate.
Arguments for the “agree” side
This week’s pro debater was none other than Miss Sydney McGrath! Not only did Sydney have the difficult role of initiating the debate, but she also was faced with very few supporters right off the bat. Nonetheless, she made some great points in regards to why schools should NOT focus on teaching what can be googled.
1) More Effective Use of Time & Developing A Deeper Understanding: Google has allowed for students to access information with the simply click of a button, in which they are able to find answers to their questions within seconds. With this in mind, surely there are more effective uses of teaching than to teach students what they can already learn themselves. Life Learning’s article Why Learn Facts if you can Google? explains how learning facts and dates which can be easily be googled is a waste of students and teachers valuable time. As Sydney mentioned in her debate, students often spend so much time trying to remember content that they do not understand the “big picture”. Instead of having to memorize these small details, teachers should be using that time to take the information that is easily accessible and focus on engaging in critical thought and developing a deeper understanding of the concepts and content being learnt. For example, Christine Blower identifies how learning times tables has become a waste of time because students can easily access them online. Additionally, this time could be used to focus on the development of skills such as problem-solving and collaborative learning, as well as those skills that cannot be googled.
2) A Need for Personalized Learning: By not focusing on teaching information that can be googled, we as teachers are presenting the opportunity for students to explore what is of interest to them and what works best in terms of their learning style. This allows for more one-on-one time between the student and teacher, therefore supporting personalized learning. Not only does this benefit students, but teachers as well. Building off of the previous point about effective use of time, it is important to recognize that teachers are only given a small amount of time to actually teach and therefore any way to maximize on the time they have and use it efficiently is ideal. Time management strategies for teachers, such as the ones provided in this article, allow for them to make the most of their time and meet the individual needs of their students.
3) Embracing 21st Century Learning: Old models of curriculum are rigid and perpetuate a certain level of unpreparedness, as much of what students learn in school does not directly apply to the work place. Creating Innovators identifies how a 21st century learning approach to education that focuses on students learning, building, shaping and doing things raises children who are innovators and have the potential to change the world with their ideas, curiosity, and creativity. By giving less attention to teaching information that students can easily google and instead focusing on the hands-on, application based knowledge, students can be better prepared for the world in which they are entering after school.
Arguments for the “disagree” side
Advocating for the “disagree” side of this week’s debate was Miss Aurora Laystreet, who also made some great arguments in support of schools still needing to teach content that can be googled, but also in regards to the importance of the role of the teacher in general.
1) Content Overload & Mountains of Misinformation: Google is full of useful information that can help students in many ways. You can Google anything now a days, but that does not mean that information you find will be accurate or applicable to what you are actually wanting to learn. It is also a well known fact that the internet if full of misinformation. For example, website such as Wikipedia are not reliable sources of information, as they can be modified easily by anyone who is willing to take the time to do so. One of the dangers here is that many students are not yet knowledgable in regards to how to weed through the content they find, nor are they able to differentiate between accurate information and misinformation. Additionally, more and more misinformation or “fake news” is being shared online and it is becoming increasingly harder for even well-educated adults to identify. If we are unable to detect misinformation online, how can be expect our students to? The article, “Helping Students Search For Truth In An Era of “Fake News”provides some tips for teachers to help their students, but as I said above, misinformation has a tendency to disguise itself as reliable information when shared online.
2) Stopping Points & Information Recall: Often time when students google information and find the answer they are looking for, their search ends. With the ability to google the answer to a question, students are not motivated to dig deeper and explore information beyond the answer they desired, reaching a stopping point in their learning. The ability to google information also keeps students from retaining information, as they feel they can simply look it up again in the future. This leads to the question as to whether or not students are actually learning, or if they are simply copying the information with no intentions of understanding it because they know they can easily access it again in the future. Terry Heick addresses these topics of stopping points and the illusion of accessibility in his article, “How Google Impacts the Way Students Think”.
3) Basic Skill Development: Many of the basic skills that students need to succeed in the “real world” cannot be taught through google. For example, problem solving skills have really taken a hit with the implementation of google in the classroom. Instead of working through problems, students are opting to search up the answers on google. “In Education, Back to Basics” identifies the need to not only go “back to basics” in terms of education, but to go even further to a point in which we have yet to explore. This approach to education supports the development of critical skills such as reading and writing, numeracy, creativity, and health and nutrition. While all these skills are important, creativity is the one that I feel is most often overlooked in education. Take the following video for example, which asks the question “Do Schools Kill Creativity?“.
As a class, we ended the debate with a discussion on how there may need to be a shift in the way that we look at technology and how it influences education. This interested me, because it raised the question as to whether or not there may be a middle ground in relation to this topic. While no single person suggested that google could replace teachers, there was much to be said in regards to what google offers that teachers cannot, such as being able to take it anywhere with you and access it at any moment. With that being said, I think it is important to recognize the many things that teachers offer that google cannot. Google cannot motivate, encourage or personalized learning in the ways that teachers can. The human interaction component that teacher provide is second to none, especially with regards to students who rely on that face-to-face method of learning. From my personal experience, some students simply cannot learn through the use of technology and require that face-to-face interaction in order to develop an understanding of content and processes. With this in mind, I think that it would be unfair to stick a device in these students hands and expect them to succeed when that is not how they learn best. The importance of individualized and flexible learning that teachers provide cannot be overlooked.
Another major concern of mine in terms of relying on google in education is that not all students may have access to technology, whether it be due to family preferences, funding opportunities, band-width, etc. Additionally, if you are working in a classroom where there are students who can access technology to use google and others who cannot, doesn’t that put some students at a disadvantage? These are some of the question that we need to ask ourselves as educators in order to ensure we are providing equal access for all students and meeting their needs.
With the information provided above, and reflecting upon the debate itself, I am able to say with confidence that I have maintained my belief that schools should still be focusing on teaching what can be googled. Don’t get my wrong, there were some great arguments made on both sides of the debate and I personally still feel that google is a powerful tool to be implemented in the classroom, but it is in no way comparable to the role of the teacher and the importance of human interaction in the learning process. I have been introduced to the many benefits of google and how it can enhance learning, but at this point in time, I don’t think that being able to find information on google is an excuse not to teach it in the classroom, as there are so many variables to take into consideration, including accessibility to technology, learning strategies, and where to draw the line between what is and what is not “google-able”. In time, this view of mine may change, as technology is always advancing and we don’t know what the future holds. One thing that I feel confident in for certain is that there will always be a place for teachers in education, regardless of technology. The article “Personalized Learning: The Importance of Teachers in a Technology Driven World” perfectly sums up some of the points I have addressed above! I would like to leave you with the following quote to support my beliefs on the topic at hand:
That’s all for this post! Thanks for Reading!