Tuesday night it was my turn to take part in the Great Tech Debate for my EC&I 830 class. The debate statement was: Schools should not be teaching anything that can be googled. I was arguing in favour of that statement but to be honest when we signed up for the debate topics I was planning to argue against the statement. So it was actually quite interesting to try and argue against my own feelings on the topic. I can’t say that I came around and was fully convinced that schools shouldn’t be teaching anything that can be googled, but I think that my team was able to argue some valid points.
It is important to understand that although it seems that almost anything can be googled, it cannot be the be all and end all as Jeremy also noted. Google is a tool. We need to teach students how to use the tool properly in order for them to benefit from using it. We need to teach students that not everything they see online is true and how to evaluate the quality of online information. Before our students can evaluate the information on the internet, they need to have some foundational knowledge. This is where I agree with Amy in that the “cart can’t come before the horse”. Now I know what you are all thinking — didn’t she argue against that in her debate?? Yes…yes I did. But I had to come up with something to argue in favour for the statement. Isn’t this why we are taking grad classes?? To be challenged haha. Anyways, I agree that students do need to have some basics before they can jump into the whole evaluating and analyzing part of learning.
In my own little world, I would argue that the focus should be on developing basic skills but we cannot be okay with simple memorization of facts. We need students to go beyond memorizing and move towards deeper understanding and thoughts. In order to move beyond the basics, we should be trying to “google proof” our questions. We should be working towards questions that make students think as opposed to allow them to find a simple answer online. Terry Heick describes three ways that google impacts the way students think and I think they are very valid points. Terry suggests that Google creates the illusion of accessibility, naturally suggests “answers” as stopping points and obscures the interdependence of information because it is linear. I think that the first two points are especially true. We feel like we have instant access to everything because we can use google but we have to remember that not all answers can be found on the internet. Some answers have yet to be discovered. We need students to be curious and seek to find answers that don’t exist on google. We need them to use their basic skills and knowledge to be creative and use their imagination to find the answers.
As a math teacher it is hard to say that students don’t need basic facts. Yes students can use calculators to help them, but a calculator doesn’t help students quickly remember their multiplication facts. A prime example is teaching students how to factor. Students who are able to factor easily are the students who have their basic 12 x 12 multiplication times table pretty much memorized. I have students who need to use their calculators to attempt to find the factors of an equation, but most of them take a long time to do it. For many of my students (most of which are in grade 10 and 11) who struggle with their multiplications tables, I have to give them a chart to help them out. This video hits the nail on the head when it says that some things should be automatic. They need to be automatic before we can move on to the more complex problems. For my students that have the basics down the higher level thinking questions are MUCH easier for them than their classmates. Thanks to Amy and Heidi for the great find.
I can’t argue against the fact that students do need the basics before we can move to a higher level of thinking. I think that we need to do a better job of creating opportunities for students to think outside of the box and go beyond the simple memorization of facts. We need to foster skills that will help them be employable in the future by providing different learning experiences.