To Teach or to Google that is the Question

This week in my ECI 830 class we had two more amazing debates. The first one raised the question about what do students need to know vs. why not just google it. Do students really need to retain different information teachers ask them to or can they just rely simply on technology to access that knowledge for them?

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The two sides gave very valid points and supported their points with some fantastic information. I want to discuss two of them. The first article is by Terry Heicks How Google Impacts the Way Students Think. This article suggests that the fact that any question that can be asked can simply be googled is not a good thing. Google is changing the way students think by giving the myth of accessibility. When we have a question we all to often “google it” and Voila answer appears sometimes even before we hit the enter key. But, what happens when google doesn’t give us the answer we want or doesn’t have the answer at all? What happens when after our first search nothing appears? What if google brings up a non-creditable website and the answer given is wrong?



Many people simply stop looking. There are many answers that google can teach us but, not all. This is important for all students to know. Hiecks also discusses how once we find an answer on google we stop the search. We are programming students brains to find the answer to the initial question, then to stop. Teachers should be encouraging inquiry, to build on the curiosity of students. In one video  about the internet changing us, it even goes as far to say that Google is becoming a humans external hard drive. No need to keep anything memorized because it is all available with a few touches of ones fingers. There is no reason to be curious about anything, after we can find  “all the answers” whenever we choose. Is this detrimental to our brain development? Are we really teaching students to simply google everything and store nothing in their own heads? Or is this just evaluation in a new form? 

I think that it is important to teach skills that students will need to be “successful” (whatever that means) in life. I think that one key skill is how to google things. Students should be taught how to research different topics about themselves and the world around them. If they cannot use the technology at their fingertips how are they going to achieve their goals? I think it is important to also teach students to critically think about what information they are taking in, where it is being accessed from, and what the use of that information. But to do this there are many skills a student needs to know first and needs to know well. Teaching students to a mastery level in things like reading and math can make accessing google more meaningful and insightful. If for example, ones reading level is lower than critically analyzing the information they are accessing from google is going to be very difficult. Not all websites can be read by the computer aloud. The mastery of this basic information can also be beneficial. An article by William R. Klemm Memorization is not a Dirty Word. Goes as far to tell us that if we can achieve this automaticity or mastery it can actually grow our brains into taking in more information. But again what do students really need to know?

This leads me to think back to my ECI 831 class I took last semester where we discussed the difference between knowledgeable vs. knowledge-able.


This debate really challenged my thinking on what I am teaching my students. Is that something they need to know? Do I have a choice in what I teach my students? Or can I simply teach them the curriculum in a way that teaches them skills for life?

Our Decisions Make Us Unhealthy, Not Technology

This week’s second debate topic was of great interest to me.

Technology is making our kids unhealthy.  Agree or disagree? 

I find this issue particularly interesting because I often consider the ways that technology makes myself unhealthy.  Taking classes, online ones in particular, I spend a lot of hours in front of a screen.  Teaching grade 2 full time and being a bit of a perfectionist in my career, I spend too many days still at school into the evening.  That means my readings and assignments get pushed into the later evening hours.  I have found last semester with EC&I831 and this semester with EC&I830 that I am having a much harder time falling asleep and having restful sleeps. After reading Lindsay Holme’s article, I now question if this is due to my increased screen time, especially right before bed.

I am also a very restless sleeper who frequently sleep talks (like multiple times a week) and I often jolt up in bed quite frantically.  My husband has a whole repertoire of my sleep talking stories that he likes to share with our friends, family, and even his grade 7/8 students!  These occurrences definitely increase during busy and stressful times of my life so I am interested to see if the frequency decreases once July hits and my school/grad studies schedule greatly decreases.  My screen time also changes drastically during the summer, something that I am grateful for.

I also find that I spend much less time outside when I am busy with school and taking classes.  I am inside staring at a screen rather than walking around the lake, going for a run, or even just sitting outside for a rest or to read a good book.

So there are many ways that technology is making my own life unhealthy but there are a myriad of ways that technology is making our kids unhealthy. Social media use has been linked to depression and anxiety and many students are experiencing cyberbullying.  Some children experience eye strain, headaches, feelings of loneliness, and even feelings of withdrawal. An increase in use of technology is also linked directly to a decrease in physical activity which has played a role in about one-third of American children and teenagers being obese or overweight.

But considered all of these factors, I still don’t think we can confidently say that technology is making our kids unhealthy.  What’s making our kids unhealthy are our decisions about technology. 

If as a parent, you choose to hand over your Iphone every time your toddler becomes unruly, then yes, maybe technology will make your child unhealthy.

If as a teacher, you choose to plunk laptops without purpose in front of your students, rather than take them outside to explore real life science, then yes, maybe technology will make your child unhealthy.

If you choose to let your child sit in front of a screen for an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes a day, rather than the recommended 1-2 hours, then yes, maybe technology will make your child unhealthy.

Our decisions about technology are making us unhealthy.  I am choosing to stay at school too late and then do my readings/assignments too late into the evening.  I am choosing to spend my last half hour before bed watching junk reality TV rather than turning off the screens that I know are bad for my sleeping patterns.  I am choosing to multitask, which I have already learned I am really poor at, and doing so ineffectively, am wasting even more time.

But in recognizing this, I would like to make a change and start living through intention.  In some ways, I have the ability to choose how technology impacts my life.  It’s amazing how quickly this blog post was written when I make the choice to silence my cell phone and set it here, out of reach…


A good choice, and now I’m nearly done this post and can go enjoy some beautiful weather!

So, I feel that we can choose to allow technology to make ourselves and our children unhealthy or we can choose to be mindful of our tech use and make decisions with intention.  So let’s choose to engage with technology positively.  I encourage you to choose even one suggestion from Heather, Andres, and Roxanne‘s intro video and allow technology to improve your own health.

The Healthy and Unhealthy sides of Tech

First off, I have to say that two debates in one night is a lot for my brain to handle! All the teams did such a great job of debating and the discussions we had were so informative and thought-provoking it was almost overwhelming. Luckily Carter and I are in the same room while connected to zoom so we tend to bounce our thoughts off one another while processing all the information.

The topic for debate #2 was: Technology is making our kids unhealthy. Agree or Disagree?

The first thing that comes to my mind is childhood obesity rates and how most kids spend more time watching TV or playing video games than they do playing outside or being active. In this sense it is making kids unhealthy. But then I look at myself and how often I am checking my fitbit, and making a conscious effort to stay active throughout the day and if I didn’t have this piece of technology on my wrist, I likely wouldn’t be as active as I am. In this case, technology is helping me stay active. I consider myself to be a healthy and active person, and when I thought about it I realized that in almost every area I am using technology to assist with my goals. I use Pinterest for healthy recipes and My Fitness Pal to track food intake. As I mentioned, I use my FitBit daily and Map My Run when going out for run. The trouble I have with this debate is the distinction between kids and adults- I think adults are much more likely to use technology to assist in their health and fitness goals.


This debate also takes on a whole new side when you consider the impact technology has on our mental and emotional health. Everytime this topic comes up I always think back to an article we read in another ECI class Split Image, about a young girl who committed suicide. If you haven’t read it check it out, it is a heartbreaking story but shows the darker side of social media and how things are not always as they seem. Kids and young people are so much more vulnerable to the pressures of social media. As Haiming mentions in her blog post, anxiety, insomnia, irritation, and mental disorders are all risks of young people using too much technology. But I think it is our job as teachers to educate students on a healthy use of technology, encourage them to unplug every once in awhile, and to remember social media is an edited version of people’s lives.

*PS- on a side note did any other Big Brother Canada fans notice that this video was narrated by Mitch from this last season? Too funny!*

I’m going to end my post by sharing the disagree team’s opening video- because I think it was so great! It shows the benefits that technology can have in 5 areas: Physical health, emotional health, social health, and intellectual health.

Should we just google it??

Wow are these days ever flying by.  I am not sure if they are moving so quickly because there is only 22 teaching days left in the school year, or I am just ready to enjoy all summer has to offer.  This week we were lucky enough to enjoy 2 debates.  I will just give an overview about instant access to the wealth of knowledge available at our fingertips with just a few clicks of a button and scrapping all the memorization in the classroom.  I will also explore the other side of the debate talking about ensuring that students are ready for the world by making sure they know all the drill and kill facts.

I enjoy how the opposing team finds articles reliant to their side of the debate. Luke, Ashley, and Andrew provided us with 3 articles and a video for us to ponder.

25604791633_68b30737b0_tThe first article How Google Impacts The Way Students Think really opened my eyes in the sense that when students are using Google they are missing out on the process. Knowledge is not simple searchable.  The internet is making it seems as though the answers are always accessible to us. The whole idea that googling is easier than thinking is scary, now we are so used to just searching for what we want to know that all we need to do is type, we don’t even need to know how to spell. However, I must admit that I am a fan of Pinterest, but again it is just plucking visuals and saving them for your own access at a later date. 

Wow, How the Internet is Changing Your Brain is another eye open27135322851_e146739bd8_ter of a article. I understand that Google searches are on the rise but i would have never guessed that the idea of instant information reached 4.7 trillion searches a day.  I know first hand that it is so very easy to whip out my smart phone and look something up, perhaps I continue to do the same searches over and over again because I know that the info will be waiting there for me.  Google has become my longer term memory.  I think I am going to do a running tally of how often I use Google in my daily life, both for personal and for the classroom use.  It is bizarre that Google that become a storage place for our memories.

Three Rules to Spark Learning was a very interesting TED Talk by Ramsey Musallam. 19579711075_e3d5f76df1He makes many valid points about how students questions come first in learning these are the seeds of the learning that will take place.  He further goes on to remind us that we should not dehumanize learning by just allowing the students to look things up and use technology.  Learning is about so much more than just finding the answer it is about the trail and error and the frustration, and the ahh ha moments in the classroom.  Most of all learning is about the reflection and the revisions so that we can get better and do better.

Amy and Heidi chose some great articles for us as well. The first article that I explored was When Rote Learning Makes Sense.  There are many valid point that made me lean towards this side of the debate. I really believe that before students can think critically, they need to have some sort of background knowledge or something to bas27058606696_6e0fba0ecd_te their new knowledge on, the scaffolding. This article further pointed out that gaining something from a quick knowledge source such as Google doesn’t allow us to actually think about in our brains. ” Knowledge without comprehension is of little use, but comprehension requires knowledge and it takes time and effort to acquire”.  We needed to understand that the brain is a tool that needs an active effort to make it work harder and somehow Google just isn’t making our brains work hard enough.  The old saying practice makes perfect is true when it comes to allowing the brain to soak up more knowledge and actually move it from short to long-term memory storage facilities. Googling does not engage our bodies or allow us to learn aloud.  If we move past the memorization of the basics we are overlooking all the basics we need to continue to build on what we know.

Memorization is Not a Dirty Word is a great article that talks of the importance of memorizing info.  We have to remember that there will be times when we don17872082364_6627224f4f_t‘t have access to the internet or our phones.  This memorization is exercises for the mind and the brain. I 100% believe that memorization trains our brains to get ready for building on to the knowledge that we already have.  The final words of the article make so much sense “But what good is learning if you don’t remember it?”

Why teach facts to the level of automaticity? This article continues to illustrate that memorization improves students ability to learn.  When students memorize information or facts it allows them move to higher order thinking without having to back fill. They are able to focus on learning the new facts and continue to build their knowledge and retention.

Humm, I guess this is a very tough one for me.  I defiantly think that memorization is a very important learning concept.  I have always struggled when it came to learning math or just learning in general.  I would have to come up with all sorts of 10274768143_72b7df57a7_tmnemonics and rhymes to help me study.  That is just how my brain works.  I understand that accessing knowledge at your fingertips makes for some simple answers but sure takes away from what you know and what you can recall.

Alright children, hide from google!

I’ve pondered this week’s first debate topic for several days now…

Should schools not be teaching anything that can be googled? 

Both sides of debate brought forth very persuasive arguments, which has only lead me to more confusion regarding the issue.  Luke, Ashley, and Andrew began the agree arguments by suggesting that people rely too heavily on google and students are therefore, losing their innate curiosity.  They explained that students are becoming contrived to look for the answer as opposed to seeking answers.  Their required video this week, How the Internet is Changing Your Brain, stated that “google is becoming today’s external hard drive”.  The video explained how college students are remembering less of what they know because they know it can be retrieved later.  Within his TED Talk, chemistry teacher Ramsey Musallam explains that questions and curiosity “transcend all technology and buzzwords in education”.  He suggests that teachers needs to be “cultivators of curiosity” and the agree side of this week’s debate argued that googling kills the creativity and robs students of critical thinking opportunities.

Amy and Heidi, the disagree team, were then persuasive in explaining that there is a place in our world for memorization and that there is value in still teaching things that can be googled.  They argued that in order to reach the highest orders of thinking on Bloom’s Taxonomy, evaluating and creating, students need to have the “knowledge, facts, data, or information in their brains to combine into something new, or with which to judge relative importance or value”.  Essentially, in order to be critical thinkers, evaluators, and creators, students need memorized information to build upon.

As a primary teacher, I have engaged in many “old math vs new math” conversations with colleagues and parents in which my response is, “there is no old math and new math, there is just math”.

mathPhoto credit

Unlike many others, I do see a lot of value in the Math Makes Sense program.  I think it allows my students to learn to explain their reasoning and understand the processes involved in solving problems.  That being said, I use a lot of supplementary material, especially in the areas of basic addition and subtraction.  Grade 2 math outcomes involve mastering basic addition and subtraction facts with quick recall as well as adding and subtracting 2 digit numbers.  Can Google answer my 7+8= and 53-24= problems? Of course it can, but I still see value in teaching students this content and ensuring they are proficient heading into grade 3.

Undoubtedly, having quick recall of basic facts is an important lifelong skill.  I suppose a student could google a basic addition fact, but I would hope that they have confidence in answering it timely, without relying on Google.  That being said, I don’t necessarily agree that memorization and rote learning results in learners understanding their basic facts.  Yes, they may be able to recite confidently what 9+5 is, but do they understand the process of adding these two numbers.  Students need quick recall of facts, but they need to have strategies to solve these questions quickly.  Learning these basic strategies and having students assess what strategies work best for them is essential.  David Staples states that “children should develop their own multiple strategies to discover the best ways to solve math problems, and that this will lead to a deeper understanding of math.”  Guiding students to understand their methods shifts math education towards understanding the process and not solely focusing on the end product.  You can google a product, but I’m not convinced that you can google an understanding process.

Because of my position in early learning, I feel that I have the ability to shelter my students from certain aspects of technology.  Is this right?  Maybe not, but I do agree that the innate curiosity that children have at ages 3, 4, and 5 quickly disintegrates as they enter school and turn 6, 7, and 8.  Don’t get me wrong, I am an encourager of technology within the classroom.  We document and share our learning through e-portfolios, engage with other classrooms and experts via Twitter and our class blog, and we frequent many interactive sites that greatly enhance our understanding.  My students, at 7 and 8 years old, don’t however, understand the power of almighty Google….or at least I think that’s the case.

I feel that they’re unaware that Google can answer any question they may have, and I want to hold on to this innocence for as long as possible.  Am I just naive?  Quite possibly, but I agree that “googling is easier than thinking” and I want my students to stay curious and creative thinkers.  I know it’s only a matter of years or mere months before they realize practically everything can be answered through Google…but for now, it’s a secret I will keep a bit longer.

Photo Credit: Ricardo Carreon via Compfight cc

So how do we lead students to remain curious, creative, and critical thinkers past their early ages?  They will discover that Google can be the fast track to answer all of their questions so how can we lead them to be more reflective and ask questions that require more than a basic Google search?  Dean Benko suggested in his blog this week this week that experiential learning can move past the early learning years through projects like Genius Hour or Passion Projects.

“Genius Hour is not only about students exploring their own questions and projects, but asking questions then discovering their own answers. As students research, experiment, create, inquire and be innovative, they are engaged in time for reflection about their own progress and how they are will find the answers. By having students research, explore then reflect on their learning in a blog post, they are also engaging metacognition or thinking about their thinking. By sharing in this platform, they are inviting others to also examine their journey, the questions and ask further questions, thereby encouraging students to dig deeper with their learning.” –RCSD Genius Hour Edtech Page

Jane Davis-Seaver, a grade 3 teacher, says “a critical thinker never loses the joy of learning, never experiences the sadness of not caring or not wondering about the world”.  Students who are engaged in self-directed Genius Hour projects are given an opportunity to explore, research, and question on a deeper level.  They are invested in the process of looking for answers, not the answer.

Photo Credit: OceanBlues22 via Compfight cc

So…do we teach content that can be Googled?  Well, I think yes, we have to.  My students need to learn their basic facts and need to learn to read to confidently progress throughout life.  Could they technically acquire this knowledge through Google? Yes, I suppose so, but I don’t feel that turning to Google is practical within their daily lives.  But at the same time, I know that I need to learn to encourage creative questioning amongst my students.  I need to take a step back from being a deliverer of knowledge and allow my students share their curiosity, discuss their wondering, and question each other.  I want them to see value in thinking deeply and not typing their immediate thought into a search bar.

So…I leave you with a thought provoking question, one from a very wise 6 year old I know…

“Who is more important to us…racoons or teachers?”

Now THAT cannot be googled (believe me, I checked!), but it definitely lead to some interesting conversation amongst those involved!

I can only hope his curiosity continues.


“Google It” vs “The M Word”

This weeks first debate topic was “Schools should not be teaching anything that can be googled.” Agree or Disagree? 

“The M Word”

My initial instinct on this topic is bias towards the disagree side because of the experiences I have had in my teaching career. Some argue that students don’t need to know basic math facts because they will always have a calculator, but I have found it is incredibly difficult to teach mathematics concepts to students who do not know their basic math facts. I see it as more than simple memorization (aka “The M Word”), it is also about developing problem solving and critical thinking skills. Ben Johnson argues that this memorization must come before critical thinking can occur:

Bloom’s Taxonomy maintains that the highest order of thinking occurs at the evaluating and creating levels which infer that the thinkers must have knowledge, facts, data, or information in their brains to combine into something new, or with which to judge relative importance or value. Therefore, effective knowledge acquisition has to come first.”

27113059591_542cb41103Photo Credit: jpappsdl via Compfight cc

William R. Klemm shares similar arguments in his article:

“Moreover, many educators at all levels have disdain for memorization, stating that we should focus education on teaching students to think and solve problems, as if you can think and solve problems without knowing anything.”

Yes we need to teach students to be critical thinkers and problem solve, but before that can happen we need to go back to the basics and give them the foundation. The disagree team (Amy and Heidi) did a great job of defending their viewpoint and focused a lot on the research that supports the importance of memorization. Although they won my vote, and I stand by my opinion that memorization and basic skills are crucial, the agree team also made some great arguments.

“Google It”

Something that stuck with me from the agree team (Luke, Ashley, and Andrew) was their argument that if students think everything can be googled, they lose their motivation for working hard to figure something out rather than getting an instant answer. One of the problems Google has created, is the stop it puts to questioning. defines Google as a verb:

verb (used with object), Googled, Googling.
2. to search the Internet for information about (a person, topic, etc.)
new-google-logoPhoto Credit


You want to know something? Google it. Once you have your answer, you’re done. Google naturally suggests “answers” as stopping points.  Google has become more than just a search engine, it has become a way of life. If we want to encourage students to think critically, ask questions, and problem solve, they need to know that they can go beyond searching Google.

Although Luke was on the agree side, in his blog post he makes note that basic skills are important, but it is equally important to challenge students. He argues that student engagement and practical application are key factors in the learning process. In his latest blog post, Dean mentions Genius Hour as a way to get students to explore and learn about topics that are of interest to them, which would meet the student engagement and practical application criteria Luke mentioned.
In summary, although I stand my ground on the disagree team’s side that basic skills and memorization are necessary and should not be overlooked, in order for deeper learning to occur, higher level thinking and problem solving skills are needed. But this cannot happen unless students first have the basic knowledge that comes for memorization and basic facts.

Games, technology and student learning and well-being

Self-proclaimed gamer and technology-user

I frequently play games through a variety of technological mediums. Physical skill, board, console, computer, mobile, you name it. I was raised in the gamer generation and have learned a lot from it to apply to the real world. Conversely I also spend a lot of time aware of how much activity I get per day and the food I consume. Combining these, I am a big believer in the gamification of learning and living. What I learned from play has translated to success in the workplace and health. I think that play engages students greatly and the modern means of that engagement dominantly occur through technology. Games connect us with others and challenge us to complete goals. But games, like sports, have a dark side to them… and it may be that only with proper education and leadership do we see responsible use of technology and games. And with these dark sides, come risks, and through the management of these risks students continue to learn and develop. Some of these risks may impact health, but with the right education, we can learn from it.


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Concerns of tech on health

If a student or individual posts up on the Xbox or PC for a “gaming sesh (session)”, snacks will follow. Typically this is associated with the negative stigma of ‘unhealthy’ as “chips and pop” may be the choices selected at times. Some studies correlate gaming to obesity, however, to the right, we see two professional gamers who would not reflect “obesity” on the BMI. Even the frequency of snacking can be called into question on the health of students who game. There is a lot of confusion and different types of data on whether or not snacking negatively or positively affects our health. A common belief was that snacking with smaller meals throughout the day may be healthier, but these tests weren’t necessarily reputable. But, as always, it comes back to moderation and understanding balance. And when these discussions occur at home, through social media and technology (shown below) and at school, students can learn to find that balance with gaming, physical activity, and snacking… within reason.

Personal experience of health and gaming.

I would consider myself a strong believer in the lack of validity associated with personal opinion or “a study showed _______ may…” however I will speak to my personal experience about moderation and technology. Maintaining balance is an ongoing process, I’ve had days of too much screen time playing online games like Diablo II, Starcraft and Ragnarok Online and days of so much physical activity that I couldn’t walk the next day or was so concerned with eating properly I would not eat some food at family gatherings because it wasn’t “healthy enough”. Balance is pivotal. This extends even to the numerous ways that technology could be messing with your brain. Whether it be panicking without your phone and this example subsequently being misused as an excuse to call it a technology addiction. If you lost your car, cat, or kids you would panic too, does this correlate to addiction? The underlying problem is not technology, it is educating ourselves and students on this learning and growing process. Technology can be the vehicle in which problems occur, but correlation does not imply causation, and the potential effects cannot be instantly taken as fact, but carefully analyzed.


What do you think? Are games and technology making our kids unhealthy? Let me know!

-Logan Petlak

How the Google Effect Affects Us

How often have you said “I don’t know….Google it” in the past month? How often have you relied on auto correct composing an email or text? How often do you do math on your cell phone’s calculator?



Spell checks, calculators, auto correct, and Google are convenient tools we quickly reach for when we need to find an answer, perform a task, check accuracy, or recall something. I agree with Danielle Istace blog post, “R.I.P. Critical Thinking,”…we maintain the perspective that “googling” and “internet use” remain single strategies to learning.

With this new technological change in our society, oral traditions being lost, as well as our accountability for our own personal knowledge. The way we recall knowledge is also changing because we are locating everything outside of ourselves.

To put in simply, this act is called “The Google Effect” and the PBS New Hour video “Google’s Effects on Memory” Columbia University Psychologist Betsy Sparrow discusses this in-depth.

Sparrow explains that we live in a time when people want answers and knowledge immediately. The problem with this, however, is that “When people except to have information accessible to them, later they don’t remember it as well. They locate it externally instead of internally”. Sparrow also says that we could push ourselves more to recall information but that we often don’t: “Maybe more information that we look up quickly online, when we could go back and look it up in our own memory”.

Sparrow makes clear that this is “Not effecting our memory just using our memory in different ways,”

When asked if the Google Effect is making us dumber, Sparrow explains that we just need to now be mindful or how we are using our memory and consuming knowledge in new ways.

Recalling our own knowledge/memories to get an answer and relying on our phones and computers is now referred to as state being in a state of digital amnesia.

Digital Amnesia, according to, is defined as a phenomenon in which technological knowledge becomes lost to humanity through constant technological advancement.



Victoria Woollaston of Mail Online, argues that digital amnesia may actually be a good thing because “Relying on phones to remember everyday items frees our brains to be more creative

Woollaston’s study surveyed “6,000 people aged between 16 and 55 across Europe.” The results were that “nearly half said the more they have to remember, the less creative they are”

So maybe our knee-jerk reaction to Google something, or grab our cell phones to check a math equation isn’t that bad? These may open the doors for creativity, but what is at risk in this societal change?

When considering this, we must also keep in mind how Filter Bubbles shape our thinking, isolates our culture, and furthers personal biases. Through Filter Bubbles we are less exposed to opposing viewpoints. Filter Bubbles may not even be something that people are not even aware of, which only further prevents people’s inability to think critically.

In Eli Pariser’s “Beware online “filter bubbles” Pariser discusses how search engines like Google personalize search engines, Facebook decides relevancy on your news feed, even Yahoo news create your filter bubble that “you live in online”.  Many internet companies use an invisible algorithmic filters, controlling the information we receive which is rarely interrogated by internet users. Pariser warns, that there is a “Shift in how information is flowing online, and if we don’t pay attention to it, it could be a big problem”

Google in particular, looks at “57 signals that Google looks at everything that what kind of computer you are on, what type of browser you are using, and your location”. Pariser also reminds us of the fact that we cannot see the difference between Google results, and Pariser’s example of this is how different his results were compared to his friends when Googling India.

One cannot help but then ask what are the ethics of these algorithmic filters?

How much are these filters censoring us?

Algorithmic filters can serve as a reminder to us as to why we need to develop Critical thinking skills, in order to think to ask critical thinking questions similar to the way that Pariser does.



So how often have you thought about how search engines filter your results?

How often have your students considered the difference between their search results and that of their peers?

When was the last time students critically considered why Facebook chose that information to show on your news feed?

Developing digital citizenship is also important for teachers, students and parents. Especially given the fact that our own Saskatchewan Curriculum hasn’t been updated since 1985, as Katia mentioned in class on Tuesday. I also agree with Logan Petlak’s blog and his suggestion that “the proper use of “Google” falls to educators to ensure students continue to ask complex questions and follow links to continue pursuing knowledge and continue to connect to new ideas with that new knowledge”

Common Sense Education’s website offers practical solutions for teachers, also keeping in mind parents and students in this equation. What I like about this website is that it’s broken down the suggestions for digital citizenship education, by grade level so that the suggestions are appropriate. I also appreciate how practical this are, and they can easily be used immediately.

All in all, is it the worst thing in the world that we Google something that we don’t know? That we grab our calculators to do even the most simple math equation? And that we rely on spell checks more often than we should? Perhaps not, but it is crucial to think critically about what is being lost through filter bubbles, algorithms, and what is ask risk due to this new way of thinking such as recalling, and memory functioning. Personally I think our critical thinking skills are the most at-risk-functions in this evolutionary we the use our brains.

You have to walk before you can run.

Tuesday night it was my turn to take part in the Great Tech Debate for my EC&I 830 class. The debate statement was: Schools should not be teaching anything that can be googled. I was arguing in favour of that statement but to be honest when we signed up for the debate topics I was planning to argue against the statement. So it was actually quite interesting to try and argue against my own feelings on the topic. I can’t say that I came around and was fully convinced that schools shouldn’t be teaching anything that can be googled, but I think that my team was able to argue some valid points.

It is important to understand that although it seems that almost anything can be googled, it cannot be the be all and end all as Jeremy also noted. Google is a tool. We need to teach students how to use the tool properly in order for them to benefit from using it. We need to teach students that not everything they see online is true and how to evaluate the quality of online information. Before our students can evaluate the information on the internet, they need to have some foundational knowledge. This is where I agree with Amy in that the “cart can’t come before the horse”. Now I know what you are all thinking — didn’t she argue against that in her debate?? Yes…yes I did. But I had to come up with something to argue in favour for the statement. Isn’t this why we are taking grad classes?? To be challenged haha. Anyways, I agree that students do need to have some basics before they can jump into the whole evaluating and analyzing part of learning.

In my own little world, I would argue that the focus should be on developing basic skills but we cannot be okay with simple memorization of facts. We need students to go beyond memorizing and move towards deeper understanding and thoughts. In order to move beyond the basics, we should be trying to “google proof” our questions.  We should be working towards questions that make students think as opposed to allow them to find a simple answer online. Terry Heick describes three ways that google impacts the way students think and I think they are very valid points. Terry suggests that Google creates the illusion of accessibility, naturally suggests “answers” as stopping points and obscures the interdependence of information because it is linear. I think that the first two points are especially true. We feel like we have instant access to everything because we can use google but we have to remember that not all answers can be found on the internet. Some answers have yet to be discovered. We need students to be curious and seek to find answers that don’t exist on google. We need them to use their basic skills and knowledge to be creative and use their imagination to find the answers.

As a math teacher it is hard to say that students don’t need basic facts. Yes students can use calculators to help them, but a calculator doesn’t help students quickly remember their multiplication facts. A prime example is teaching students how to factor. Students who are able to factor easily are the students who have their basic 12 x 12 multiplication times table pretty much memorized. I have students who need to use their calculators to attempt to find the factors of an equation, but most of them take a long time to do it. For many of my students (most of which are in grade 10 and 11) who struggle with their multiplications tables, I have to give them a chart to help them out. This video hits the nail on the head when it says that some things should be automatic. They need to be automatic before we can move on to the more complex problems. For my students that have the basics down the higher level thinking questions are MUCH easier for them than their classmates. Thanks to Amy and Heidi for the great find.

I can’t argue against the fact that students do need the basics before we can move to a higher level of thinking. I think that we need to do a better job of creating opportunities for students to think outside of the box and go beyond the simple memorization of facts. We need to foster skills that will help them be employable in the future by providing different learning experiences.

Just Google it? Just Google it right. Building from simple to complex.

Statement: Schools should not be teaching anything that can be googled.


No2Google Logo via



The picture below isn’t necessarily related, but it was one of the pictures that came up when I searched, “Yes Google”, and I feel compelled to use it… it helps if you imagine Psy singing “Heeeeeyyyyyyy educators, Goo, Goo, Goo Goo. Google ain’t so bad”. This builds into my post, while illustrating both the problem and potential solution of simply “googling it”.

2012 iHeartRadio Music Festival - Day 1 - Show

LAS VEGAS, NV – SEPTEMBER 21: Rapper Psy performs onstage during the 2012 iHeartRadio Music Festival at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on September 21, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Isaac Brekken/Getty Images for Clear Channel retrieved via Business Insider)

Building from simple to complex googling.

Apart from the fact that so much can be Googled (and Googled and found mistakenly, as seen in picture above), the policing of instruction to avoid this next to impossible. However, like any potential problem-causer, it provides opportunity. How do we roll with this? How do we make a positive out of a negative? How do we build from simple to complex?

Terry Heick visited the thought that: “complex questions can’t be googled.” He went on to state that the answer Google provides can be a stopping point… and that it “… creates the illusion of accessibility,” or “obscures interdependence of information.” All valid. This can happen from simply using Google without education, but it reminded me of Dave Cormier’s details on using MOOCs appropriately through the cynefin framework and the rhizomatic learning… specifically that answering complex questions requires a particular approach to learning, that we as educators can seek to facilitate. Terry Heick then concludes with an awesome point that alludes to this need for educators and highlights the importance of teaching about proper use of Google and why Googlable (new word?) concepts should be taught in schools: “none of this (the above concerns) is Google’s fault.” Educators (and parents, for that matter) bear the responsibility to inform students of how to use technology like Google and Wikipedia to foster ideas and “cultivate curiousity”. So much can be Googled, so teach students to think critically, and recognize that every teacher can do this regardless of grade or specialization, as evidenced here, and through digital citizenship as Jeremy Black referenced.

Connecting critical thinking to maximizing Google.

“Before students can think critically, they need to have something to think about in their brains.” Ben Johnson made this comment, and used it to remind us of the importance of memorization and still keeping this as part of instruction. This speaks to the baseline knowledge that may come from using Google and other information sources. Finding the simple answers that “Googling it” may provide is the beginning to deeper parts of cognitive function in individuals, leading to fostering curiosity that I made reference to before. My phrase I tend to use in course outlines in senior science echoes the overlap between memory, critical thinking and curiosity: “in order to remember these terms, I will push you understand these terms.” This simply reflects my angle of looking at it, but there are many ways to aid in memory.


Final thoughts

Ultimately, the proper use of “Google” falls to educators to ensure students continue to ask complex questions and follow links to continue pursuing knowledge and continue to connect to new ideas with that new knowledge. Memory may play a dominant role in this process providing the fundamental information that sets a foundation to curiosity and challenging complex questions.


Agree? Disagree? Comment!

– Logan Petlak