Just Google It

In the last few decades of the twentieth century, something strange happened in schools and colleges. A boxy shaped thing called a “BBC Computer” started to appear. It had a big screen, a bit like a television, and it came with a keyboard. At first, we looked in horror at this strange new thing. We had just about accepted that we could go past dabbing tippex on our documents, and edit on a typewriter. Now we were looking at something completely different. The keyboard keys were big, and bulky, and touch typing suddenly became a skill to have, as did coding. The disks that came with the strange new machines were floppy and extremely temperamental. The software was the same. If you ever used Word Perfect you will know how difficult it used to be to word process. Around the same time, or maybe a bit before, children got Christmas presents where you could blip a tiny dot from one side of a screen to another. This was extremely exciting, since no one had ever seen this kind of thing before.

Fast forward a few years, and people start to mention something strange and new called “The Internet”. Some guy called Tim has conjured up a thing that might mean you never have to look anything up in a book anymore. Instead of having to spend hours in the library, researching an article, you can download stuff from something called “the web”. Someone has made a basic website, and you look at it in amazement. It has all the details that you used to have to look up in a phone book, in one place! When the kids get their hands on this stuff in school, without firewalls, you get the first glimpse of the potential, and the dangers, of this new medium. Around the same time, some people start shouting into large phones in the street. (Later on, a comedian called Dom Joly will make a career out of how ridiculous this looked.) For years and years, the phones only have keys, but then one day someone puts a screen on them. A new magic has arrived.

These days, people go on search engines, and social media sites, and they make decisions based on what they see. They just do. We are past the point where people are not going to do this, even if we’d prefer that they don’t. This generation of children have grown up in a world where computers, the Internet, and smart phones have always existed. That is their reality and we’re not going to change that. The world is accelerating into something that is going to be very hard to deal with. And if we don’t teach our children how to handle the storm that is brewing, we are doing them a disservice. While arguments rage about knowledge versus skills, or direct instruction versus project based learning. we are at the point where Donald Trump might become President of the United States, and where people don’t understand how the rule of law works. If we don’t teach our kids how to read the Internet properly, how to evaluate what they find, then we are failing in our duty. We can get them to memorise facts as much as we want to; pass on the cultural capital of our choice. But if they’re going to “Just Google It”, then we have to teach them how that works.

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4 Responses to Just Google It

  1. So very true. In my English teacher days (Now SEN), I taught a book called Refugee boy, purely for that point. My students were asked a series of questions about what they thought about refugees from what they had heard in the media. Then at the end of the book the same questions. Teaching children to think and evaluate information is arguably the most important skill we can give them.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hilton Mayston says:

    The challenge is for individuals to see the value of distinguishing between data, information, knowledge, understanding and wisdom. Poverty of authority, family and community can make genuine contact, connection and communication rare. Leaving the resonance of a compassionate community a desire rather than a reality. The eloquence of a generation at the risk of being diluted by short term consumption and appetites

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Tim A says:

    Just googling it seems to be mainly opposed by people who have gained a knowledge of “why just googling it” doesn’t work – by googling it.

    Also an expertise in cognitive science gained entirely by googling it.

    With everything it all comes down to the age/maturity/expertise of the group you are teaching, what you want them to learn and how much contact time you have with them. Just dismissing the world’s biggest library, available 100% of the time at your fingertips, seems crazy to me.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. tonyparkin says:

    When I first started providing professional development using computers, back in the last century in post-internet-but-pre-web days, the teachers used to say it was difficult for them to grasp this technology, but the kids could do it easily in their ICT lessons, so it would be OK for the next generation of teachers.
    Then along came the web, my CPD sessions now included stuff on how search engines worked, and the teachers said it was so difficult to grasp, but that the kids got it, and did it at school., so it would be alright for young teachers in the future.
    The millenium came and went, I picked up a European project on esafety which involved delivering CPD on the internet, and the teachers said it was all too difficult, but that the youngsters could grasp it, so as long as they did it at school it would be OK in the future.
    Last week I was working with a a group of young trainee teachers, who said they found computing difficult, but the kids at school seemed to cope OK, so we should be alright in the future.
    So the next group of teachers, who have been taught by two generations of those earlier ‘kids in school’ who ‘got it’ still think the kids understand the technology better than they do. And often leave them to it…
    Until teachers realise that it isn’t about being fast and adept using the latest technology, rather about not only understanding what digital literacy entails, but also realising that as teachers its is crucial that they up their game and help children come to grips with it, we will continue to go round this loop (or recursive iteration, as the digitally literate might put it :).

    Liked by 3 people

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