Remember when teachers assigned research projects or essays? Entire lessons were dedicated just to brainstorming how to gather the accurate information and resources needed. Class time was even scheduled for trips to the school library so you could learn how to conduct proper research. The librarian showed you how to find the books and journals needed for your topic. You spent hours deciding where to get the information before doing any actual research. It all seemed so overwhelming; you didn’t know where to begin.
Google has made things vastly different for students today. Now, when a teacher assigns a research project to a group of high school kids, the students’ first thoughts are often, “I’ll Google it.” What once took hours to research now takes seconds. The students pull their smartphones from their pockets, open the Google app, and in no time, they have a list of resources from which to choose. Erased from the process of the age-old research assignment is the time for critical thinking, the evaluation of sources, and the opportunity for students to form their initial opinion on the question at hand.
With the answers immediately and more quickly available, is Google helping or hurting the learning process?
Technology invariably brings about changes in curricula as schools integrate interactive devices. First, learning institutions employed the use of Apple iPads, but in 2015, Google Chromebooks became the top device sold to U.S. schools. One-third of students (junior high to high school) in the U.S. are now using school-issued mobile devices for their school work.
In addition to conducting research, students use electronic devices for taking tests online, accessing class information in online portals, and watching video lessons created by teachers. This constant innovation brings a slew of benefits and drawbacks to the ways students learn and teachers plan lessons.
How Google Positively Affects Education
●Accessibility creates the opportunity to learn: On the surface, it’s easy to see that having the answers right at your fingertips can encourage more learning. If students want to know something at any given moment, they’ll likely look it up, because they have access to the answers — whether in their smartphone or in their school-issued device. The easy access provides them with the opportunity to learn more.
●Reading online improves memory: Some education theorists believe the Internet is making people smarter, and studies have shown improved memory in students who conducted research online versus those who researched in print.
How Google Negatively Affects the Learning Process
●Accessibility creates dependence: A downfall to accessibility is that students may rely too much on Google. Keying questions into their phones and immediately receiving the answers takes away any hard work to get the answer, and they’re more likely to close out of the screen or click the back button and glide on to the next thing before retaining that knowledge. When time is so precious, and new thoughts are perpetually taking place, how many students will keep reading deeper into the article for better understanding? How many students will stick with the same topic and check out other related articles when they’ve already gotten their answer?
●Accessibility creates a lack of motivation for memorization: Conceivably good and a bad is the notion that if students know they can access information whenever they like, they don’t understand the benefits of memorizing it. The plus-side of this is that easy access to this information creates more space in the brain for creativity. But then the argument is made that memorization is needed to improve thinking and fuel creativity.
Young people can find this technology distracting, as well. Many people are unable to read long texts anymore, as they skim articles quickly without evaluating the information. In addition to eliminating time spent, going through text quickly before clicking away removes the process of reflection and contemplation. Students think they comprehend what they read, but they’re often on to the next idea before the information fully sinks in.
How Do Teachers Adapt?
As Google has its effect on students’ brains, teachers have to mix up their strategies to anticipate students’ needs and challenge them. Rather than dumping an overload of information on their classes, the focus is moving toward cultivating critical thinking and implementing situation-based learning.
When assigning research projects, teachers are now encouraged to make their questions Google-proof, meaning that Google helps create the response rather than finding it. Teachers can challenge students by implementing the practices of study and observation rather than encouraging them to master a certain aspect of a subject.
Technology is always changing, and with that comes many benefits and opportunities to the way students learn. The aim is to keep their brains challenged. When lessons are as easy as a one-click answer, the students lose more than they gain.
Contributed by Jennifer Landis: Jennifer is a writer, blogger, foodie, yogi, runner, and mama. She loves drinking tea, deadlifts, and dark chocolate. You can find more from Jennifer at her blog, Mindfulness Mama, or on Twitter @JenniferELandis.