Does Google Change Education?


One of my colleagues sent me this interesting article the other day.  The basic premise is "does Google numb our brains or does it make us smarter?"  I haven't really thought about it before (at least not formally).  An interesting question and not what I'm really going to talk about in this post... but only because the article got me thinking about something else :-)

It got me thinking about how does education (or our delivery of education) change in a world where students can, and do, have access to more knowledge than ever before.  I guess the question is, what are we doing in schools teaching students facts that they can Google if they ever need to know the answer?  I mean really, what's the purpose? Instead, we should be providing them with the skill set required to navigate the information that is "out there" in a effort to make them effective at finding and validating what they find.  Then, we can help them put that knowledge into a larger context and get them thinking critically about what they found.  One way to do this is to ask "Google Proof Questions"... questions that require analysis, interpretation, and investigation.  In other words, higher order thinking skills.  You can, and should, read more about Google Proof Questions.

Ultimately, students should then be creating their own content that documents their understandings of the world around them... adding to the growing knowledge base that is "out there".

There are a couple of other comments from this article that jumped out at me:

three-fourths of respondents believe the Internet will make us smarter in the next 10 years.

Access to information/knowledge does not make us "smarter".  It's how we think (and reflect), the problems we solve and the connections we make that makes us smarter.  If we want students to be "smarter" we need to redefine what we value in education...

I think Google makes us lazier but facilitates our learning faster.

Hmm, lazy?  I'm not sure about this.  Did the advent of the written alphabet make us lazier?  How about wide-spread access to books?  Access to information does not make us lazy.  Again, the value isn't in finding information but in what you do with it.  From this standpoint the exact opposite could be possible.

The online survey from Imagining the Internet Center at Elon University in North Carolina and Pew Internet project asked 865 Web users whether the Internet would improve reading and writing by 2020.

I guess this is reading and writing in the traditional sense of the word.  The Internet is all about communication, this is not limited to only reading and writing.  When it comes to making sense of the world, there are many more ways to express this than just through writing.

He doesn't allow students to use Wikipedia.

Sigh. Wikipedia is amazing.  Does it have faults?  Of course it does.  Is the solution to prevent students from using it altogether?  Nope.  Will Richardson does a much better job than I ever could talking about Wikipedia so watch him.  This one is good too.

Newsmap... visualize the headlines

I was looking through the blogs today and came across a post about a web app called Newsmap.  What is neat about this is that it...
provides a tool to divide information into quickly recognizable bands which, when presented together, reveal underlying patterns in news reporting across cultures and within news segments in constant change around the globe.

It is pretty amazing.  At a glance you can look at similarities and differences between news headlines (pulled from Google News) from a variety of countries.  This could lead to some great discussions at school.  I think that it would be neat just to have some of these headlines up on a projected screen in the morning when students come in.  Since you can't control the news, keep an eye on it to ensure nothing inappropriate shows up (you might want to keep "entertainment" turned off). Think of it as a continually changing classroom poster... you don't even need to lead a discussion about any of the headlines for students to benefit (although if you did...)  The screenshot below (click to enlarge) shows the business headlines for Oct 30 @ 6AM EST from five English speaking countries.

newsmap
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We Exist (In Google Earth)

I was using Google Earth (GE) a week or so ago with students and my school (built in 2006) still was not visable on the imagery (we were still tennis courts... still are in Google maps).  However, just a couple days ago I went in with some new students and there we were, in all our hi-res glory.  Seems Google has recently updated some pics.  I don't think it was taken with Google's recently launched new satellite (which promises sub-meter resolution - each pixel = less than a meter).  On a side note, I went to 15200 Kutztown Road, Kutztown PA. 19530 in Google Earth to see the new super hi-res pictures and it didn't look any different and certainly didn't look like the pictures in the Wired article.  Oh, well.
Google Earth
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Google Earth update

Google has released version 4.3 of their popular Earth program. Students love this application and will play around with it for hours. Teachers can use this application as a digital globe or even as an interactive "poster" when introducing a new topic or fostering class discussion. Mr. Dippold was using it the other day during his discussion of the situation in Darfur (students were comparing Darfur to the Holocaust) and students were able to see first hand the terrain and lack of water resources in that region. Well, 4.3 is more powerful and realistic than ever. Take a look... seriously, this video (from Google) will amaze you. Good on you Google!

Google docs upgrade

I'm not a huge user of Google Docs, I prefer Word & Pages for the bulk of my word processing needs. However, I do enjoy using it for brainstorming/rough drafts/thought catching. After all, what it lacks in polishing it makes up for in portability. Today, Google is getting ready to allow users to have offline access to their Google documents. This is great. I'm all for Google pushing the envelope and putting pressure on the establishment. This type of competition is really great. Check out the Google blog and the video for more information.