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.