What do you need to know before you Google?

Do you have to know what you are looking for in order for Google to have the answers?

All I can say is Wow!  What an intense evening of debate for our EC&I 830 class. Both teams dug into the topics and shared points that made me think twice about whether or not schools should be teaching anything that can be googled?

Screenshot of Google Search

Do you need to?

It’s an interesting question and one that deserves more than just a passing thought.  We are educators and what, how and why we teach the way we do matters to our students.  It impacts how they think about the world.  

 Both teams raised valid concerns that made me think about what we know and what we take for granted in the age of instant access.  While I still come back to the idea that it’s not about the technological tool but rather how you use it to encourage deeper learning. The points raised made me think about when automaticity is appropriate and necessary to lay the framework for deeper, critical thinking.  And just because we can google it, doesn’t mean that we should.

I have to admit I was swayed by the debate statement.  Should we be teaching anything that can be googled… but perhaps the question really is should we be assessing things that can be googled?  To me it’s not so much how you access information, it’s what you do with it once you have it.  

Heick’s article, “How Google impacts the way students think” raised several key points that made me wonder…..

  • When we are curious do we stop at the first website that google gives us?
  • How many people move beyond the first link?
  • Why do some move beyond the first link and continue to dig deeper while others are content with the first explanation?

Have you ever stopped to think about why you stop at the first link you find?

→ If I’m just looking for a confirmation of the concept then I tend to stop if the first link confirms the knowledge that I have.

→ If I’m truly researching a topic, I follow one link to the next until I feel I’ve reached my goal that or I’ve been distracted by various links along the way…. I wonder how much of my research is shaped by Google’s knowledge of me?

Speaking of which I came across this Knowledge Graph Video, which talks about how Google is attempting to make even more connections for you when you search.


map with car
Fidler Jan Morguefile



Heick also asked if we think of google as a destination rather than just part of the journey? As if Googling is easier than thinking?

Does Google as Heick suggested promote information independence as opposed to knowledge interdependence?

It takes me back to the question that students often ask….

pen and paer
Cohdra – Morguefile

If I have to cite everything I find then when is it actually my words that come through?

 While helping students and people in general understand the value of intellectual property and giving credit where it’s due, is an issue that needs to be addressed… that’s a different post.
Does googling promote the development of your own voice?
Who is responsible for weaving the knowledge connections together?
When do all those separate bits and bytes of data become knowledge
or evidence of learning?

It’s the ongoing conversation I had with students when we talked about how they could share the story of their learning.  It’s up to the student to analyze, evaluate and create meaningful connections.  The points they choose to cite, the order they share the information in and the stories they connect them to in their life — that’s what we need to learners to think about. So as one of my classmates aptly pointed out, just how much information do you need to know in your brain to actively understand all of the information we encounter everyday.

Just pause for a moment and think about all of the knowledge and skills you have stored in your brain that’s reached a level of automaticity — you don’t have to think about it you just know it….

  • Did you have to think about where the letters were on the keyboard to type your response?
  • If you see a red octagon…. What does that mean?
  • Can you read these words?  If you are a fluent reader, chances are you didn’t have to stop and think about decoding the words. You know your letters and sight words.


Do you wonder just how ingrained our learning is?

Try the Stroop Test for a quick reflection on just how deeply words are encoded into our brain. You can try out the Stroop Test here – follow the instructions and reflect on just how much our brains are programmed to respond in certain ways.

    • While the Stroop test measures interference in the types of information your brain is receiving, it’s interesting to think about how many skills and pieces of knowledge we take for granted.

As an interesting side note, I spent Wednesday in a Diversity Education Teacher inservice and we were learning about executive functioning of the brain.  Our Ed Psych, shared that when we know our basic math facts and letters (i.e. we’ve learned them to the point of auotmaticity), when we need to access that knowledge the back part of our brain goes to work.  For learners that struggle with basic facts that aren’t automatic the brain activates parts of our frontal lobe to try and help.  Eventually students can figure it out but the costs of accessing and processing the info is much higher.


The video, How the Internet is Changing Your Brain – highlights unless we actively work with information in our short term memory it is not going to be encoded into our long term memory.  “The more we use Google, the less likely we are to retain what we see.” (para. 3). Or is it really the rise of of Connectivism.  The idea that learning takes place not only in the connections that we make with information internally in our own brains based on the experiences we have, but that “learning (defined as actionable knowledge) can reside outside of ourselves (within an organization or a database), is focused on connecting specialized information sets, and the connections that enable us to learn more are more important than our current state of knowing” (Wikipedia – Connectivism).

In the end, we know that learners today have more access to information than ever before through tools that can make knowledge acquisition almost instantaneous.  The true art of teaching and learning will be to find a balance.  As Danielle’s blog post noted, whether it’s searching online or using our memory, the task or reason needs to be purposeful if we are going to fully engage the student in making meaningful and lasting knowledge connections.  After all, it’s just data unless we actually make meaning from it.

If we are assessing on questions that can be googled or looked up in a book, are we really assessing students on what they know or on their research skills?  Is it really Google that’s causing us to have shorter attention spans and transfer less knowledge to long term memory or is it a the evolution of a connective technology that increases our access and our cultural learning practices haven’t caught up?

What do you think?….did you just google the topic 🙂



6 thoughts on “What do you need to know before you Google?

  1. Ooooh, “but perhaps the question really is should we be assessing things that can be googled? To me it’s not so much how you access information, it’s what you do with it once you have it.” Love this, along with your blog post.

    When you said “Is it really Google that’s causing us to have shorter attention spans and transfer less knowledge to long term memory or is it a the evolution of a connective technology that increases our access and our cultural learning practices haven’t caught up?” I feel like I can relate to your thinking, I tried to touch on this in my blog by speaking to the tradition of schooling, and although we are not exact in our ideas, we are close.

    I appreciated how you have more questions and ideas that what initially meets the eye regarding the debate topics. Thanks so much.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank-you for your comments! Glad to hear that it resonates with you. I find as I write my blog posts, I always seem to have more questions than had initially crossed my mind when I first read the topic. The value of time to reflect and the awesome amount of information that gets shared in the debate and the follow up posts. I think blogging our reflections and learning from our classmates really highlights the value of engaging in conversations about how we learn 🙂


  2. Great post! I enjoyed doing the Stroop Test; I will want to try it with my students! Your points on why we google and why we stop at the first choice were on point and valid. I appreciated your in-depth analysis of the use of Google in today’s society, as it made me reflect on how I use it, and how I get my students to use it for their work. Thanks!


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