There has been a lot of attention to the potential downside to Googling. It promotes surface exposure. It makes us lazy about remembering things. It devalues deep thinking. But, it also presents a great opportunity.
I have found myself more than ever this year rethinking the way I frame classes and ask questions. In part, I was being a little lazy; I did not want to have to worry that my students had access to the Internet on their computers while doing in-class assessments. To avoid policing the screens, I simply changed what I was asking them to do. I allowed them to use Google and stopped asking the questions they could find answers to by typing them into Google. My questions have become more evaluative, comparative, open-ended and speculative while still requiring concrete evidence to support a point of view. In short, I am giving them the Internet but in turn raising the bar.
For class activities, I am doing more than asking questions for information. Looking at a timeline of the early Cold War events today, I had students select what they thought the “game-changers” were. They listed those events on the board and we began to discuss why they were more important. They need to know more than what the events are but have to evaluate the implications of each event. As always, I seemed to run out of time; I get another crack at this on Monday with another section, and I think I may be able to develop this even more and time it a little better.
Google has made me a better teacher and helped me promote deeper more critical thinking in my students. If I can let Google take care of the basics then we are free to explore the more weighty, interesting questions. With Google as a given, I can look at my students and say, “Yes, and…”