Embrace the Mess

That is this blog entry.

Both agreeing and disagreeing with the question: should schools teach anything that can be “Googled?”

As I enter week 2 of debates, I am learning a lot about myself in a way that has nothing that has to do with technology. I used to think that I was somewhat sound in my convictions on some of the topics that have been discussed. I came into this course having experiences as both a parent and a teacher that have given me, what I perceived to be a pretty good idea of where I stood on most of these issues. However, as I read, read, read, and write, write write, I realize that this couldn’t be further from the truth. Maybe, this is because the debaters are doing SUCH a good job that I am feeling myself being pulled in all different directions. I am certain that it is in part, a result of accessing resources that are engaging to me (TedTalks, ect) and I feel like I am taking more away from some of these resources than I have in the past when reading photocopies were simply handed out by professors.

At this point in my journey, I am confident to say that I will likely be on the fence for a lot of these issues, because when I am participating in the Zoom Room, each and every comment that is brought up connects to a story. The narrative and experiences of my students as individuals, and their differences in gender, age, culture, and socioeconomic status to name a few factors, mean to me that I cannot answer in a blanket statement if I agree or disagree. It depends on the context of the situation, and which one of my students faces I envision at that moment in time.

If you need a concrete answer to whether I agree or I disagree in entirety, STOP READING NOW.

Should things that can be “Googled” be taught in schools?

Photo Credit: theglobalpanorama via Compfight cc


No. Of course not.

We live in a society that is starting to be more and more reliant on technology every single day.  And we know that critical thinking is a skill of examination, not a skill based on memorization of the things that we as curriculum makers think that students will need to know, maybe…in the future for the job that they might have that may not exist yet, possibly…. We need to be process oriented, and basic skills will evolve within the process. We can’t dismiss the possibility that we don’t know everything about when knowledge is actually acquired along the process for every single one of our students, all the time. Waiting for students to achieve “foundational knowledge” aka “things that can be googled” could be detrimental in killing off the curiosity and passion they have for learning. I have had moments where days later, I will be mulling over a question and have “AH HA’ed” while folding laundry. (I am a mom, after all) Do we truly know, if that “ah ha!” moment has been triggered by the 9,999th moment of repetition by the learner? It is very possible that a moment of questioning the questions that have been continually questioned by the learner has lead to higher level thinking. Or because at a certain moment in time, a familiar scent may have triggered a memory of a lived experience allowing a learner to connect a memory to a puzzle which allowed them to achieve that level of deeper understanding of something they have been questioning. How do we know what goes on in that moment, which is different to every learner, and further differentiated by factors like learning styles, ages, gender, culture and socioeconomic status?

I loved: Ramsey’s 3 Rules

1)  Curiosity comes first. Curiously is starting to attract some attention, in a good way. I believe that engaging learners is just another term for embracing the curiosity that naturally drives kids.

2) Embrace the mess. Learning is so, so messy.

3) Practice reflection, (it deserves our revision) This is something that I can appreciate significantly more since I began taking my masters. As an overwhelmed beginner teacher, there was no time for me to reflect. I was simply trying to keep my head above water. However, as the fog cleared and I have embarked on this journey into graduate studies, I have become increasingly aware of how significant reflection and revision is to the learning process, both for myself and my students. I feel that in the process of drill and practice there is less room and meaning for reflection, which leaves a huge gap. When you are actually applying your knowledge through experiential learning there is room for higher level thinking and therefor reflection.

Yes, of course.

Rasmey Mulligan refers to his open heart surgery and taking comfort in the confidence of his surgeons curiosity. I would like to point out that we are all aware of the grueling amount of traditional schooling that doctors endure. A strenuous amount of rote memorization, to be exact. I am going to go out on a limb here and ask, is his doctor’s curiosity and willingness to attempt this trial and error surgery reliant on a foundation of skills, abilities and prior knowledge that we would consider to be “Googleable”?

In the article, How Google impacts the way students think, three areas of concern are outlined.

  1. Google creates the illusion of accessibility.
  2. Google suggests “answers” as stopping points.
  3. Being linear, Google obscures the interdependence of information

During the debate it was brought up, and referenced from this article in particular that Google gives students the illusion that answers are in reach when they are not, creating a false sense of knowing. Students don’t necessarily know, or remember and because it is so fast paced they are collecting just enough information that it is not maintained as knowledge in the long term, because they are more likely to remember where they got the information than the actual information itself. As teachers we have all been witness to this. However, I do not believe this is Google’s fault; that the illusion of accessibility is for students is created, nor that answers are seen as stopping points. And being linear???? This is where it gets messy. Replace the word “Google” with the word “memorization” and you could make the exact same accusations. These are all descriptive qualities of the traditional institution of SCHOOL. Google has not created these problems, school has.We have traditionally taught in a product rather than process driven way. Most of us in this class, likely attended schools where there was one right answer to the questions we were being asked. Work was linear, and it didn’t necessarily promote in depth learning or inquiry, and in some classrooms, it is still this way. Lets not blame to tool, or even the user. Ken Robinson states that the current education system (including curriculum) was “designed and conceived in a different age, based on an intellectual model of the mind”, by a bunch of wealthy, white men.


Learning needs to be balanced, and the system of education and curriculum needs to continue evoling. Every day I see professionals around me going to combat against an outdated system, and trying to not only teach but to assess in the way that supports this notion of critical thinking, by teaching basic skills and using inquiry to emphasize the learning process and reflection to be just as valuable to students as the final product. I do take value in the concerns of what happens when students only “Google” as reflected in this debate. However, I believe that these concerns will stay the same and simply be replaced by the next “tool” or “Google” to come down the line, unless we challenge the bigger picture which is the institution of education itself.

Learning needs to be differentiated. Some of my students should be allowed to bypass tasks, and use tools for technology that others don’t get to use. Why? Because fair is not always equal. I do understand that this runs risks of streamlining kids. I really do understand that. But I am a professional. I am trying my best, given the education and training that I have, to do the absolute best for my students. If I allow a students to by-pass a step and go straight to Google, trust me. That student being able to “Google it” may very well be a moment serving of HUGE celebration. For that student, the deeper understanding may be present in the action of being able to Google something.

Learning needs to be meaningful. This can be achieved through drill and practice too. In grade 6, I shot free throws in my front yard for more hours than I practiced my math facts. I wanted to make the basketball team. I did, make the basketball team, and I was addicted for life. I went on to play a lot of basketball in my day (Go Spartans!) and still play women’s rec league with a bunch of great ladies in Regina. This drill and practice of a skill, was meaningful to me. Ben Johnson refers to the body as another learning tool that can benefit from repetition. He states that “the body is another learning tool — another often-ignored concept. The body is connected to the brain and if you engage the body, you are engaging the brain too.He also claims that, like in my case, “learners feel an addictive sense of accomplishment when something has been memorized completely” (Johnson, 2010).








One thought on “Embrace the Mess

  1. Drill and practice, especially in terms of sports or music, can lead to “muscle memory”. If you haven’t already, check out this TED talk (shared by Heidi this week) which refers to music lessons, but can definitely relate to your experiences with basketball and training your mind through muscle memory. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2DnMGnAGNs


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