Teaching in a Google World

In ECMP 455 class we discussed different topics surrounding technology and education. We were asked to reflect on one of the topics and I decided to write about Google and the classroom. When I was going through school I was constantly using Google to get quick answers and my habit of turning to Google first has only gotten worse. Now that almost every answer to any question can be Googled, we have to ask: Should we be teaching our students concepts that can be answered on Google?

In an article by Zhai Yun Tan the topic about the effect of Google is discussed, and arguments that Google make us dumber and smarter are both brought up. One thought is that having information at our disposal makes room for more info because we do not need to remember so much information. An example of this that the article mentions is our friends birthdays. Facebook users do not need to remember or even think about their friends birthdays until the day of when Facebook will remind. This is much like how when I see a movie with an actor I recognize, I immediately Google the movie to find out what I recognize them from. This seems arbitrary which it totally is, but I am happy that I don’t waste too much brain power trying to memorize every Ryan Gosling movie.

As teachers it might seem frustrating that students automatically turn to Google to answer the questions we post, but we can use Google to help students become critical thinkers. One thing I often is hear is that we need to teach our students to think critically, and I believe Google goes hand-in-hand with this. Like I mentioned before, there is seemingly infinite information on the internet which means we can always be analyzing and critiquing. I myself am still learning to critique the information that comes across my screen, so how am I going to teach my students to do this? One video we watched in ECMP is by John Spencer and is all about how to tell real from fake news apart:

Showing students videos like this one and giving them checklists is a good way to help them critique information they find online. Another way to match your teaching to the Google world is to choose indicators out of the curriculum that call for deeper and personal understanding. Asking students to connect on a personal or relative level means that the answers can’t be Googled because the answers should come from their own experience and voice. For example, in the Grade 9 English Language Arts curriculum in SK this is one of the outcomes:


One of the indicators is to “paraphrase a text’s content, purpose, and point of view.” Student’s could easily Google all of that information and not think twice about meaning or connection to themselves. An indicator that leads to deeper understanding is to “identify and explain connections between what is viewed, heard, and read and personal ideas and beliefs.” This indicator calls for students to relate the readings to their personal lives, and not simply Google a plot and it’s themes.

Altogether, I think that Google like any EdTech tool, can be as useful as you want it to be and can be as big an inhibitor as you allow it to be. By requiring students to think critically and make connections to the instinct to get answers off of a Google will be lessened.

I would love to hear reader’s thoughts in the comments below!



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