You have heard it said “If you can Google it, why teach it?”, but I want to ask “why trust Google’s algorithms when you can teach?” I Google things all the time, so I am not saying to stop using Google (or your preferred search engine). But is it really safe to let our learners of any age just Google it and let that be it? I want to push back against that idea with some issues to consider.
When we say “Google it,” we need to be clear that we are not really searching a database and getting back unfiltered results from complete data curated by experts (like you would get in, say, a University library), but allowing specific Google algorithms to filter all the web content it can find everywhere for us and present us with content based on their standards. There is often little to anything guaranteeing those results are giving us accurate information, or even trying to, say, correct a typo we don’t notice that gets us the wrong information (like adding the word “not” when you don’t realize it). But how often do people think through the real differences between Google and a library when they refer to Google as the modern day global library?
We have all heard the news stories that found everything from promotion of neo-Nazi ideals to climate change denial within Google search and auto-correct results. Things like that are huge problems within themselves, but the issues I am getting at here are how Google search results are designed to drive clicks by giving people more of what they want to hear, regardless of whether it is factual or not. Even worse, most internet search engines are searching through incomplete data that is already biased and flawed, adding to existing inequalities when it uses that data to produce search results. People with more money and power can add more content from their viewpoint to the data pool, and then pay to multiply and promote their content with search engines while diminishing other viewpoints. Incomplete, biased, flawed… all are terms that really don’t do the problem they describe justice here.
When you are an educator of learners at any level – why leave them to navigate through a massive echo-chamber of biased and incomplete search results for any information about your field? Why not work with them to think through the information they find? And when they do need to memorize things (because not every job will let you Google the basics on the spot), why not look into research on how memorization before application helps things like critical thinking and application? To be honest, as many, many others have pointed out, Google has only increased the need to teach rather than “just Google it.” But can we change the societal narrative on this on before it is too late?
Matt is currently the Learning Innovation Coordinator with the UT Arlington LINK Research Lab. His research focuses on Learning Theory, Innovation, and learner empowerment. Matt holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from the University of North Texas, a Master of Education in Educational Technology from UT Brownsville, and a Bachelors of Science in Education from Baylor University. His research interests include instructional design, learning pathways, sociocultural theory, heutagogy, virtual reality, and open networked learning. He has a background in instructional design and teaching at both the secondary and university levels and has been an active blogger and conference presenter. He also enjoys networking and collaborative efforts involving faculty, students, administration, and anyone involved in the education process.