A new week means a new debate! This week McKayla and Brooklynn argued if schools should be teaching things that can be Googled. If you asked me this question the day before, my answer would have been a for sure yes. Going into this debate, I thought that students need to know information and have it memorized regardless if they can be Googled. For example, multiplication tables. When I was a kid we had to have the memorized. My co-op in internship had the same mindset that they should be memorized. Math teachers at my current school all have students trying to get those basic facts memorized. Safe to say, I too think students should memorize them. Multiplication is just one thing that students are asked to memorize. In almost every subject, students are asked to remember information that can probably be Googled. So back to the main question…should we be teaching this information in schools?
During the debate, both sides brought up some good points and both debaters recommend some great articles/videos to further my understanding of the topic at hand.
After reading Why Students Can’t Google Their Way to the Truth (an article recommended by the con side)I found that many of the ideas brought up in the article had me thinking that we do indeed need to teach everything to students. We can Google pretty much anything and I can think of a handful of times, I have told students to just Google it or have Googled something myself. However, just because they can Google it doesn’t mean they understand it. Something that was brought up in our debate was the Quadratic formula. A student can Google the quadratic formula. Eventually they might find it but personally, it took me a while to find it because Google does not just say here it is. I had to click on a couple pages to find what I was looking for. Now I knew what I was looking for but who’s to say that students will. Anyway, below is the quadratic formula.
Now just because I was able to Google it doesn’t mean I know how to use it. Google doesn’t teach you how to understand. In regards to the formula above, Google doesn’t necessarily tell me what the letters represent or in what situation I would use this formula. When you click on the Wikipedia page for it, there is in fact two formulas on the page. The one above and as well as this one:
Now how is a student to know which to use and when to use them? Sure they can Google it but will they really understand the concept? I tried “just Googling it” and it is safe to say, I think I am more confused about the quadratic formula than I was before.
However, if we look at the other side of things, the truth is our schools and curriculum are becoming outdated according to Sugata Mitra in his TED Talk Build a School in the Clouds. In his talk he discusses how schools are stuck in their old ways and that what was once important to learn, may not be anymore. Technology is advancing so quickly but schools are stuck in the past. Sugata may have a point there. Let’s go back to multiplication tables because I really enjoy math. Let me take you back to the year 2004, to when I was in grade four. Drill and practice is what we did to learn the tables. Mad minutes anyone? We lived for those things. Now flash forward to 2013, when I did my internship. Guess what my co-op used?! MAD MINUTES! Students were not a huge fan and some hated them. Almost ten years later and mad minutes were still being used. The difference in technology between 2004 and 2013 is huge, yet mad minutes are still there.
In the end, I am not sure if my position has changed completely but I do not think I am as much on the pro side as I was to start. I still think we need to teach students things regardless if they can be Googled. We need to not only just teach it to them and have them regurgitate it back. This is the stuff that they can Google. What we need to teach them to understand it and the purpose behind learning it as well. A lot of times that gets forgotten. In a typical day for me, the most common phrase I hear (mostly from the grade sevens and eights) is “why am I learning this?” We as teachers need to add that step of teaching the purposed, the real world application to hopefully get students to stop asking this question.