Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Do You Do What Google Can't?

The constant outcry from many an educator about the demise of student learning and work ethic due to kids "Googling" the answers is often deafening.

However, a question must be posed in return. Could it be that this is what your instruction is teaching your students to do?

The answer is found within the questions being asked inside of the classroom.  When questioning in the classroom only goes one way, or is strictly about getting information, we are training students to be MORE dependent on Google, not less.

"Just the Facts M'am"...Not Good Enough!

In my opinion, poor questioning in the classroom is actually WORSE than just "Googling" the answers, because in that moment in time, the student only needs to ask the teacher and BAM! They get the answer! The student quickly learns from this Q & A routine that no struggle is required, no pondering, no reframing, "just the facts M'am" is good enough. Ask and be done.  Now compare this with a Google search.  When a student performs a Google search they need to find the right words to search, read the search results, and evaluate the quality of the result. Although neither is sufficient, in which scenario is the student more active?

Now within the traditional framework of teaching, before information was made omnipresent through the internet, this method was not only right, but essential. It was a prerequisite to being a teacher. Students need the information. Teacher has the information. Student asks the teacher question. Teacher gives student correct answer. "Teaching" accomplished.

But thank goodness no longer.

No longer is this type of relationship/dynamic essential to one's attainment of an education. Not only is it not essential, it is on a path towards extinction.  As David Houle and Jeff Cobb put it in Shift ED

"If scarcity creates value, then information in and of itself is rapidly becoming worthless"

If an individual's instructional schema is one that maintains the teacher as the sole purveyor of information, the teacher is indeed no longer relevant, or even necessary.

I believe it was Daniel Pink who said "if something can be automated, it will be." Given our dynamic reality where we are fortunate to reside, the pressure to automate education is steadily increasing.  So what is an educator to do?

Do What Google Can't

Let's imagine a pretty common occurrence in a typical classroom. A student asks his/her teacher "Mr/s. Teacher, 'Is this answer right?'". Rather than do what Google can do, do what Google CAN'T do...

  • Google can't ask "Why do you think it is right?" or "Why do you think it is wrong?", but a teacher can.
  • Google can't ask "What did you try already?", but a teacher can.
  • Google can't ask "Have you seen what other people are doing to get the answer?", but a teacher can.
  • Google can't say "Tell me what you are thinking and we can work it out together.", but a teacher can.
  • Google can't ask "Are there other potential answers that are just as good?" and "What and why are they?"
In order to elevate our students, our profession and our own lifelong-learning, schools and classrooms must become the places where we accomplish what Google can't.  For me, Timothy Chace, from his post "Are We Failing Superman... or Can We Be the Heroes?" framed it best when he wrote-

The best teachers aren't those who know the most, but those who believe in you the most. Who help you to develop the most.  They do this by offering the right challenges at the right time, asking the right questions and providing the right feedback. Books and computers can not coach you, encourage you or help you discover your passions... that's why teachers are so important.

The best teachers don't give the right answers, they ask the right questions. 

No comments:

Post a Comment