A couple of weeks ago I blogged about a challenge question I put out through email. Who said, and when, were the questions and I gave a quote from John Dewey (see The Challenge). I offered up an iTunes giftcard to the first person to tell me who and when this quote was from, so I expected a lot of feedback.
What I didn't expect was the amount of people that would send out a "disqualify-me" statement after answering. At least two thirds of those who answered said in one form or the other, "but don't count my answer, I used Google."
WHHAAAATTTT??!!! I exclaim with a genuine smile. It does, in some way, kind of feel like cheating when you think about it. But why is that? Why does it feel like cheating? I mean, if you don't know, you don't know, and you have to find out somehow. Does it feel like cheating because you don't have to dig to find the information?
I mean, I asked a question and said, "the first person to answer is the winner." You used available resources to meet the time requirements. You wouldn't have had the slightest interest in that quote if you would have had to go look it up in a library. And maybe not even if you would have had to read or type the quote out. But the ease and availability of the answer compelled you to participate! And so you copied and pasted.
The point of the challenge wasn't to see who was the "smartest", but to merely turn your attention to what John Dewey said in the 19th century, hoping you might wonder what I was up to. So, I got you! ha-ha-ha!... got you. And now you know that John Dewey advocates social media in the classroom... and you are also reading my blog... :) Maybe you're inspired to start your own blog.... ?
So what is wrong with googling for our information? Well, how much information do you wish you knew but just don't have the time to go read at the library and study? How much information do you really need to know first hand and off the top of your head?
Think about this: faster feedback with information moves the conversation forward, onward, and upward faster. Which allows us move to a new question, a new problem, a new solution, and then a new question.
And the more important question: Which is more important in surviving and thriving in society - knowing a lot of information? or knowing the right information?
We all have a limited amount of knowledge to hold and access in our brains, and it's based on our experiences and interests. The amount of knowledge doesn't make one smarter than the other. Intelligence is marked by problem solving. Problem solving and solution finding requires that we use all available resources. And Google is a POWERFUL resource. In fact, it is so powerful that as solution finders, the real skill has suddenly skipped the hard part of "how do I think myself around this one?" and drops right to, "how clearly can I define my problem?"
This is an essential skill for our students. It is an essential skill for all of us. Search engines allow us to tap into those questions we need answered right away and allow us to then move on. In the workforce, the ability to find solutions will exponentially increase the worker's worth to the company and the person's worth in the community. Using Google is not cheating. I would argue that it is never cheating (okay, that's a tough sell, and maybe a little overboard - it depends on the real objective).
Can you find one of your assignments that would be enhanced by allowing your students to find the answers by using Google? If you are worried about the search's results (all of you in the health field I'm sure), see my blog about Google's "Custom Search Engine" The Text Book Terminator. It allows you to search only a specific set of websites. Or go directly to Google Custom Search Engine to start.
And for a practical application right NOW - don't forget that your Technology Requests are due on the 29th. You can use Google to search for the equipment you want. You'll even find sites that compare prices from different stores. Something you'll need to do anyway. So cut out the questioning and the procrastination - START GOOGLING! and then move on....