The opening debate for week three dealt with the topic, Schools should not be teaching anything that can be googled. Taking the “agree” side was Luke, Ashley, and Andrew, who opened with a statement by Albert Einstein which had been posted by Kyle earlier in the week: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.” The trio went on to reference the Constructivist Theory, and suggested that schools should consider curiosity and experiential learning as important components to a child’s education.
As the husband of a former PreK teacher, I know experiential learning is considered to be a very important component to early childhood learning. In fact, pg. 26 of the Better Beginnings, Better Futures Prekindergarten Handbook provides recommendations for experiential learning. Teachers are also encouraged to provide students with an “invitation” to learning, and to provide students with the opportunity to learn through play.
However, I believe experiential learning should be extended beyond just the early years. Many classrooms are exploring the idea of Genius Hour. This movement “allows students to explore their own passions and encourages creativity in the classroom”. The following video by A.J. Juliani provides educators with practical advice for Getting Started with Genius Hour. Within Regina Catholic Schools, a number of teachers have chosen to join the Genius Hour movement. Matt Bresciani’s Grade 7/8 Genius Hour projects, and Melissa Ratcliffe’s Grade 4/5 Passion Projects are highlighted on the RCSD Education Technology information page Genius Hour Classroom Connections. My own grade eight daughter is currently engaged in a passion project, and she looks forward to the time she gets to research and blog about her project on sport psychology.
The agree side provided the class with a number of relevant and engaging resources. The article, How Google Impacts The Way Students Think suggests that students see knowledge as always accessible and within reach, even when it is not. As a result, the author feels answers to questions become stopping points for students, with no further exploration. Once Google has given the answer, the curiosity is over. The author further suggests, “Googling is easier than thinking”. This is certainly something I have seen with students in the past. In a rush to get the answer, they fail to draw on basic knowledge they do (or should) possess.
In the video, How the Internet is Changing Your Brain, a number of interesting claims are made. First, the narrator states, “Google has become our external hard drive” and questions, if the sum of all knowledge is available in our pockets, do we really need to keep it in our heads? I really like the term “memory outsourcing” the producers of the video used for this phenomenon. The video further proposes the brain recognizes that most online info is trivial and does not require our full attention Essentially, in this new age of always accessible information we have trained and conditioned our brains to forget.
On the “disagree” side of the debate was Heidi and Amy who chose to open their arguments with a video . Ultimately crowned victorious, this group argued there is a place for basic facts and memorization in schools. This team felt the acquisition of these skills results in feelings of confidence and capability amongst students. They also stated that memorization of basic skills is required in order for students to achieve higher levels of thinking. They supported these claims with a number of great resources.
The video, Why teach facts to the level of automaticity? reaffirmed the notion that automaticity aids students in learning new materials, especially in math, because students are not slowed by having to consider basic facts. As well, automaticity improves learning and retention of higher order math skills because students are not distracted while learning more complex problems.
Of all resources shared by both teams, my favourite was the TedTalk video , Three Rules to Spark Learning, by teacher Ramsey Musallam. Ramsey passionately advocates that curiosity should be the main driver of learning and suggests three rules teachers should keep in mind to spark learning:
- Curiosity comes first
- Embrace the mess – learning is “ugly” and trial and error should be encouraged
- Practice reflection, and be ready to revise your teaching approach
So, having considered all of the arguments prepared by both teams, and having reviewed all of the resources, for a second week in a row I find myself on the fence of both sides of the argument. Certainly, the acquisition of basic facts is important, but to quote Ramsey Musallam, “Student questions are the seeds of real learning”.
And finally, to answer the question posed in the title of this blog post, “googleable” is a real word. I googled it and got over 192,000 results.