Posted in eci830

Just Google It

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The Great Tech Debate for this week was about whether we should be focusing on teaching things that can just be googled.  This is a very tricky topic as many people had very different ways of looking at what “Googling it” entailed. It ranged from the simple act of typing something into Google to find the answer, to using the many tools Google has to offer, such as Google slides and hangouts.

When I think of “Googling it” I think of typing in a simple question into Google to find an answer.  I think of these types of questions as lower level questions that have an easy answer.  According to The Curriculum Corner these lower level questions can be thought of as thin questions and higher level questions can be thought of as thick questions.  Now although we are using Google and not a book, looking at the chart I think we can say that thin questions are ones that are right there on Google after we type something into a Google search. Although students need to be able to answer lower level/thin questions, it’s important that we spend most of our time guiding students to higher level/thick questions that involve more thinking and applying what they are learning.

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Understanding lower level basic content provides a foundation to better understand higher level content.  So although I don’t feel we should focus on things that can just be “Googled”, we do need to provide students with a foundation of knowledge to build on.  For example, if students don’t understand what a habitat is, how can we expect them to decide if it’s important to protect animal habitats and make the choice to take action to protect them.

Students also need to understand that our Google search history can have an impact on what Google will provide us during a Google search. In the article “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”, Nicholas Carr points out that “[Google] uses the results to refine the algorithms that increasingly control how people find information and extract meaning from it”.  In our night class, Alec pointed out that Google can even provide content that is leaning more towards one political side based on our search histories.  Students need to be aware of this and not take a Google search at face value, but instead dig deeper into what they find.

Both the disagree and agree teams found some common ground and both pointed out the importance of critical thinking skills.  These skills can be practiced with and without the use of Google.  However, using Google as a tool allows students access to more resources to explore and use on their critical thinking journey. Being able to use these skills online is vital these days with the issues of fake news and very biased articles/posts. Using Google as a search tool is the first step to finding items online to view through a critical lens.

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From my last class with Alec, I learned about teaching students to think critically. One resource shared during the course was “The Five C’s of Critical Consuming” by John Spencer. In this video John shares five ways that students can view content and decide if it is trustworthy, reliable and useful.  The Five C’s he suggests are:

Context – When and where is it written? Have events changed or new info available?

Credibility – Is the site credible? Are the sources cited credible? Is it satirical? Is it an advertisement?

Construction – What’s the bias, facts, opinions, propaganda?

Corroboration – Do other sources claim this too?

Compare – Find other credible sources to compare it to get a larger more rounded picture of the information.


After the debate I still feel that some time should be spend on content that can be Googled, but that more time should be spent on helping students gain critical thinking skills and practice applying them to a digital world.  We can use the foundation of the content students need to understand from the curriculum and have them apply the skills needed to understand this information in a deeper more meaningful way.



3 thoughts on “Just Google It

  1. I love that you included the thin and thick questions in here. I totally agree that we need to be teaching students how to move beyond those yes/no surface level learning questions. How can we use technology to delve deeper into learning and use those surface-level questions to start to dig deeper into a topic? I think that it is important to teach students that a good question should lead us into asking more questions once we begin our research. I also agree that it is important for students to understand how Google uses the results to refine the algorithms that control what information we are presented in a search. I often even forget about this! Thanks for the great post!

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    1. Great blog Erin! I too love the example of thick vs. thin questions, and completely agree that they must learn how to build on the foundational knowledge that they need and that will help them become the “critical thinkers” that we speak of each week. Again, it comes back to the balance. Balance of thick & thin questions, and balance of technology use.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post, Erin! I love using thick and thin questions with kids to help them dive deeper into a topic or concept. I think you hit the nail on the head when you say that Googling something really only provides kids with “right there” answers, whereas our role as teachers is to help students take those thin questions and answers and expand upon them. Inquiry learning is great for this, as students usually begin with more basic questions and as the process unfolds, they begin to ask deeper, more meaningful questions. Of course, teachers and tech together will ultimately enhance this learning process.

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