Google Gives a Quick Answer, but Does it Guarantee Understanding?

Schools should not focus on teaching things that can be easily googled.


This EdTech debate ended in a draw of sorts. I think all involved in the presentation and discussion of the debate understood how they felt about the topic, however in both the pre and post vote it isn’t clear that people knew what they were really voting for.

Speaking for myself, I read the prompt as “Teachers should only teach things that cannot be googled” and I disagreed which was the same as the majority of the people in the pre-vote (although that may not mean much).  My rationale is that some of the information that is shared in schools can be googled.  That doesn’t mean that it isn’t important to share.  Anyone can type a question into a search engine and retrieve an answer but that doesn’t ensure understanding or learning.  The human touch a teacher can bring to presenting, sharing or introducing topics to students is invaluable.  I can easily “google” any event in history, but nothing can replace the learning that comes from a teacher who is passionate about what they are teaching, be it in any subject.  When it boils down to it, just because something is “google-able” doesn’t mean you shouldn’t teach it. 

What the two debate teams shared however was the HOW things should be taught.  The pro-team, Curtis and Lisa focused on the LoTi framework that educators can use to ensure that technology use is purposeful and focused on critical thinking, communication, creativity, and collaboration.  I especially enjoyed how their upbeat music that played as they shared what LoTi was shifted to an ominous soundtrack while they cautioned what LoTi was not.  This team shared it is important for teachers to use a holistic approach to teaching, with land-based and sensory experiences that are student-centered that encompass real-world learning.  Teachers need to offer opportunities for students to have deeper understanding, not just surface knowledge that they could have found on their own.

The con-team added to this message by sharing how students are becoming too reliant on Google.  They shared that the application of the knowledge found is missing.  If teachers were focusing on things students could google the answer for, the digital divide widens as not everyone has access to get the answer.  Daina and Jocelyn warned that teachers who only taught basic information that can be found on Google, encourage regurgitation of information and learning and understanding is lost. Google is meant to be a tool, not a teacher.  There was no heated debate.  The open discussion gave the group an opportunity to have an enriched discussion on factual content learning, and student-centered, self-directed, learning.  Many agreed that there is value in some memorized learning such as multiplication facts and sight words, however, as the research provided stated, there is definitely more to learning than the 3R’s (reading, writing and arithmetic).

Educators bring those facts to life, by bringing their own personalities to their lessons.  They can express information in different ways and make it more engaging.   Projects such as genius hour, passion projects, and student directed studies combine content with student engagement. 

Our conversation took a tangent on how at this particular time in history, connecting with our students is more important than content.  Examples were shared such as spirit challenges. Our Student Representative Council (SRC) has been trying to find ways to connect with kids in our new virtual environment.  Most recently, they have put out a Photo Scavenger Hunt.  My  daughter is a member of the SRC and gave me her permission to share a few of her entries.  At the end of each challenge, there is a draw for gift cards to local businesses (Nice way to support local).  Our Phys. Ed Department is also doing Physical Activity Challenges which are popular.  I’ve enjoyed seeing many students learn to juggle from one of our teachers. 

At the end of the “debate” there was a shift to an “agree” post-vote.  Analyzing the discussion, I believe that we had a discussion on how “googling” information was surface learning, but deeper understanding comes from experiential learning, inquiry learning, and purposeful technology.  I think that this “understanding” shifted the vote, even though, that doesn’t mean you can’t use google or expand on googled information in student learning.  Curtis summed it up best when he said, “It’s not about finding the information or knowledge, buy applying it.”

3 thoughts on “Google Gives a Quick Answer, but Does it Guarantee Understanding?

  1. “Educators bring those facts to life, by bringing their own personalities to their lessons.” This quote, along with your mention early in your post about Googling history facts reminded me of a teacher that impacted my life. In grade 10, I had a history teacher who I loved. He was funny, thought-provoking, led excellent discussions, used interesting collaborative projects, built relationships and fostered reciprocal respect among everyone in our class. This was before significant use of internet to do projects, we typically relied on books for research, although the internet was emerging. I’m thinking that if we spent class on the computer, and Googling all of the historical topics, I would not have got nearly as much from that class as I did because of the teacher. In fact, I was so inspired that I went on to do my first undergraduate degree in history.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The connection piece is such a huge one. I honestly don’t think that I realized how much I would miss everyday interactions with students. Waving in the hallway, saying good morning, going to extra-curricular events. Now I find myself trying to find ways to make this year’s virtual graduation the best in can be for students.

    As I prepare for my debate, one quote that is sticking with me is that “We do not teach subjects. We teach students.” I can supply all of the curricular material in the world right now to students, but I don’t think at this particularly point in time it is what they are interested in. They want to get out into the world and interact through activities like the photography scavenger hunt and the physical activity challenges you mentioned.

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  3. Thanks for your post Sherrie. I also found this topic very interesting and really enjoyed the meaningful discussion that took place between both sides on this issue. I completely agree with you when you said, “Anyone can type a question into a search engine and retrieve an answer but that doesn’t ensure understanding or learning”. This is a powerful thought that really hits home the idea that Google is a tool that can enhance learning, but not something that can replace a teacher. While you certainly could find an answer on Google, just the same as a student could read a long-winded textbook and find the answers – the learning experience just isn’t the same. However, like textbooks, if we utilize and embrace Google as a tool to enhance learning for our students, there is a great potential for engaging and meaningful learning to take place inside (and outside) the walls of our classrooms. Thanks again for the great post!



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