What a ride we've been on for these debates so far! First, we were treated to an amazing debate last Tuesday, jam-packed full of suspense, thanks to some great arguments, as well as a thunderstorm delay. Not to be outdone by that, our next great debate unveiled a plot twist no one saw coming - both sides settled their differences ahead of time, and instead of a debate, we were treated to an awesome discussion surrounding the use of "Google" in education. It was a brilliant approach to the debate format as the topic itself is not (see what I did there) hard to agree with. The notion that schools should be embracing the use of search engines like Google, is something that I'm sure most educators would agree with, and was backed up by great points from both sides.
Side One (A)
Up first, was Curtis and Lisa, who did an excellent job defending why schools shouldn't be afraid to focus on topics that can be easily googled. A few points that stuck out to me from their opening video were:
1. The Six Skills to be Successful: Positivity, Bravery, Determination, Self-Belief, Creation & Sheer Energy
This was something that stood out to me, as they are such important skills for both students and adults alike. As educators, we can help foster (and grow) these skills in our students with our classroom environments as well as the meaningful learning opportunity we prepare and facilitate.
2. LoTi Framework
I'll admit, this one was rather embarrassing for me. As someone who is a major tech and inquiry advocate in education, and genuinely felt like I have a lot of knowledge in this area - I had to google this acronym because I forgot what it stood for (yikes). The Levels of Teaching Innovation shows the meaningful ways that technology can enhance learning and move away from the typical teacher-directed learning, and shift more into student-centered learning. As was mentioned in the opening statement, the LoTi Framework is also an excellent tool for building the six skills to be successful.
3. Focusing on the 4 C's: Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Communcation & Creativity
This is an area that I've definitely spent lots of time focusing on as a Connected Educator in my division as we have spent many hours learning about these 4 C's (as well as Citizenship, Connecting & Curation). I understand the importance of these skills and actively try to incorporate them into my daily lessons, or special projects such as Genius Hour (but more on this later).
4. Teaching Students to Filter Between Good and Bad Knowledge
This really stuck out to me because I'm sure a counter-argument to using google, could be that the internet contains lots of misinformation that students could be accessing for their learning. While this is certainly true, if we as educators take the time to teach and explore digital literacy with our students, we are actually enabling them to become critical thinkers as they navigate the online world for information. This is a classic example of utilizing the power of education instead of banning technology for potential problems - which sadly seems to happen far too often in our education systems.
Side One (B)
Next up, Daina and Jocelyn presented some great ideas that also supported why Google use could benefit students, but also raised some excellent points in regards to how and why we are using it. Here are a few things from their opening video and discussion that stuck out to me:
1. We can use Google, but we need to ensure they don't do the thinking for us - It's a tool, not a teacher.
This was a great point as it's something that Trevor and I also thought about when we were preparing our debate. If all we ever used when thinking about information was google, we lose our ability to think critically - so it should never be utilized as a sole means of learning, but instead, as a way to enhance learning. In the end, learning without an educator would result in a shallow learning experience for all those involved. This is also where that human relationship and memorization debate could also come into play. Imagine you are having a discussion with a friend about sports fact (let's say the last time the Leafs won the Stanley Dup) and either of you is 100% sure about the answer (probably because it was so long ago). Typically this could lead to a lengthy debate, or conversation as you both think about the answer, however, one single search on google could erase lots of meaningful and enjoyable conversations between the two of you. While this is certainly an extreme example, it does highlight a concern that could arise if we become over-dependant on google for answers.
2. Students shouldn't be expected to use Google (or the internet) for curriculum, when many can't consistently access technology.
This was another great point that was also highlighted in our previous debate on the equity of technology. As we are all aware, the digital divide does exist and CoVid-19 has certainly exposed the gaps within our own province (and country). With this in mind, the point that Daina and Jocelyn made above, still rings true - we need to use it as a tool, not as a replacement. As I read this statement, I couldn't help but think of Doug Ford's brilliant idea to make online learning a requirement for graduation. How could this even be remotely possible, with the Digital Divide that exists? With many students who do not have access to this technology at home, what are they to do in order to fulfill their graduation requirements?
3. Google focuses more on "Useful Knowledge" vs. "Liberal Knowledge"
This thought also reminded me of the first point above in regards to how we use Google. The point was mentioned in the video that "Google is more about quick information instead of Critical Thinking". If we understand this point, then the answer to the statement for this week's debate should shift away from "Should Google be used?" to "How can we use it properly to enhance learning".
Out of the three debate topics so far, this was the only one where I was leaning heavily to one side ahead of time and I was happy to hear that I wasn't the only one. As I mentioned earlier, while there are certainly some good arguments against the use of Google in education, I still believe this would have been a very difficult debate to win because the positives far outweigh the potential detractors. Personally, I've been a big advocate for the use of Google in my classroom as I found my students were benefitting for the exact reasons Curtis and Lisa mentioned.
One project that I've been especially passionate about facilitating with my students is Genius Hour. Providing students with the opportunities to explore their passions and find answers to questions they have is such an amazing experience. With this being an inquiry-based activity, my students naturally need to research information using google, but it also opens the door to other connections that students may not have previously had - such as contacting experts via twitter or Skype in the Classroom. One point that Brad made on his blog that ties into Genius Hour are the discussion that always surrounds it - "How do I mark it?". As Brad explained, a better argument for this topic would be "Should we stop ASSESSING things that are easily google-able?", and I couldn't agree more. Honestly, when people hear that I do not mark my Genius Hour projects, I'm typically met with a lot of questions. But honestly, instead of marking the final project or the answers, the students get from the internet, why not assess the journey they took to get there? To me, this is the beauty of Genius Hour as the journey is far more important than the destination!