If You Think Your Pupils Are Googling Their Way To Success, Think Again

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One of the more tiresome aspects of classroom teaching over the past decade has been the mandatory insertion of ICT (Information Communications Technology) into every lesson, regardless of any educational rationale.

For the gradually disempowered teacher the option of saying: ‘I’m not’, to the question: ‘How are you incorporating ICT into the lesson?’, simply isn’t there any longer.

Senior management’s fear of Ofsted (which is justified, considering the effect that even a ‘satisfactory’ report can have on a school), by and large dictates the content of lessons.

The banal logic behind ICT’s relentless march across the curriculum of course comes from the highest levels of government, and the assumption behind the mass application of ICT to all areas of education is that it will somehow help transform Britain into a nation capable of developing 21st Century tech industries.

The reality, of course, is that instead of the majority young people innovating in the classroom, instead they become passive consumers of information.

Yes, Google and Wikipedia help them to find information which they can dutifully and passively copy and paste into Word documents, neatly avoiding anything remotely close to deeper learning.

Two recent studies have concluded that far from the Internet being a means of connecting learners with an eclectic and diverse constellation of knowledge and data, it often operates less effectively than the school library.

North Western University and Stanford University both concluded that the key factor that determined what information a student would access online was the position of a search result; a majority tend to click on the first thing that appears to address the question they have.

In terms of day to day practicality (‘how do I mend a flat tyre’ or ‘what are the symptoms of meningitis’) this is undoubtedly a good thing, but convenience and deeper learning exist at odds with one another.

To explore the reasons for the end of the British Empire, the causes of the Holocaust or Chamberlain’s decisions at Munich, time, care and patient reading are required.

Despite what tech utopianists might say, there isn’t a substitute for the process of reading, grappling with, struggling to master and sometimes being defeated by a subject – the cause of the student’s eventual ‘lightbulb’ moment are the struggles involved in getting there.

When a student reads something online or watches a video, they might get a useful precis of a topic or even an in depth exploration, but the research by North Western and Stanford suggest that they will not access diversity or conflicting views.

Proponents of differentiation in learning might argue that the internet has enabled lower ability learners to succeed where previously they would not have been able to.

There is a huge difference between deep learning taking place and learners simply accessing ideas on the internet because it’s ‘easier’. To illustrate this, we should look at the findings of the Stanford survey into their own students (hardly considered ‘low ability’ candidates).

One task asked students to determine the trustworthiness of material on the websites of two organisations: the 66,000 member American Academy of Pediatrics, established in 1930 and publisher of the journal Pediatrics, vs. the American College of Pediatricians, a fringe group that broke with the main organization in 2002 over its stance on adoption by same-sex couples. We asked 25 undergraduates at Stanford–the most selective college in the country, which rejected 95% of its applicants last year–to spend up to 10 minutes examining content on both sites. Students could stay on the initial web page, click on links, Google something else–anything they would normally do to reach a judgment.

More than half concluded that the article from the American College of Pediatricians, an organisation that ties homosexuality to pedophilia and which the Southern Poverty Law Center labeled a hate group, was “more reliable.” Even students who preferred the entry from the American Academy of Pediatrics never uncovered the differences between the two groups. Instead, they saw the two organizations as equivalent and focused their evaluations on surface features of the websites. As one student put it: “They seemed equally reliable to me. … They are both from academies or institutions that deal with this stuff every day.”

Learning takes time, perseverance, effort and the knowledge that the learner has a right to be wrong, to make mistakes and to figure it out gradually.

A learner’s own imperfect answer which is the result of patience and reading is better than someone else’s supposedly ‘great’ answer, acquired quickly online.

Libraries, both municipal and in schools are gradually becoming little more than cyber cafes as their funding and status are eroded, but in the age of tech giants and fake news they are more important than ever.

Google purports to offer knowledge without filters, but the reality is that search algorithms are powerful filtering devices, returning learners to the same search results.

Human filters, authors, editors and librarians might seem quaint and anachronistic, but they are more vitally important in the transmission of ideas than at any other time since mass literacy and publishing began.

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Source: UK Tech – The Huffington Post