The Great EdTech Debate: Should Schools Stop Teaching ‘Googleable’ Facts?

The second debate of The Great EdTech Debate was also very engaging as it was about another very controversial topic.  The idea of schools to stop teaching ‘googleable’ facts in classrooms was one that had me on the fence the entire time.  This was such a difficult decision for me as once again I found balance to this was the key.  Both presenters raised some very good points and I would like to highlight those, along with referring to the literature supporting these claims.

google

“google” by FindYourSearch is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

On the ‘pro’ side to stopping the googleable facts being taught in the classroom, the main point of focus was regarding teaching for understanding, rather than simply memorizing facts.  This idea made a lot of sense to me as we are talking about this in EMTH 200.  Being a math major, I know the importance of teaching for understanding.  We can teach students mathematical formulas and concepts, but they need to understand it in order to apply it to other problems.  Students, myself included, are guilty of simply searching for answers rather than truly understanding material.  When test time comes, they quickly learn they have not done themselves any favours.  Something that was brought up in the debate was the notion that when you google something, you will certainly get lots of answers, but on google you only get the facts.  You cannot understand what you are doing by simply googling.  It takes hours of practice and instruction to truly develop understanding.  Googling something takes a matter of seconds.  You cannot build understanding in seconds, it takes time.  Googling things is monotonous.  As ‘Most Likely to Succeed’: Schools Should Teach Kids to Think, Not Memorize states, “The only surviving skills that will save young kids are creative and innovative” (Thilman, 2015).  You cannot build creativity and actual life skills by memorizing facts. Google can be great tool, but it simply does not work on the level that in-class and in-person instruction does.

            On the other hand, one may argue that googling facts is essential.  This is true, which is why I was relatively undecided on my opinion of the topic throughout the debate.  Google provides a wealth of information that is incredibly accessible to anyone.  Memorizing facts is crucial to learning as it provides the foundation to learning.  You cannot build without a foundation and having that base of knowledge is required to begin building understanding.  “Memorising facts can build the foundations for higher thinking and problem solving” (Smith, 2012).  This is an indication of how you need a foundation to begin building understanding.  Higher learning begins with memorizing essential information, then building understanding from there.

            While I am still on the fence in many ways regarding this topic.  It is without a doubt, a very controversial topic as we do not know where to draw the line.  Are we eliminating all googleable facts?  This is a burning question I still continue to have in response to this debate and these articles.  I think that true knowledge does not exist without understanding, which is the main reason I am more persuaded to the ‘pro’ side of the argument. 

            In conclusion, much like my opinion on the first debate, I think the key to teaching is balance.  In terms of the argument about googleable facts in the classroom, I think one cannot exist without the other.  What I mean is you cannot teach googleable facts without building an understanding.  Similarly, using google as a tool for learning is very helpful in ensuring the critical facts are known for whatever it is you are learning.  I think both presenters did a great job arguing these points.  So good in fact, that I continue to remain undecided.  

Wexler, N. (2020). Why Kids Know Even Less About History Now—And Why It Matters. Forbes.

Smith, M. (2012). Why memorising facts can be a keystone to learning. Teacher’s Blog.

Thilman, J. (2015). ‘Most Likely To Succeed’: Schools Should Teach Kids To Think, Not Memorize. HuffPost.

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