Category Archives: google it

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:)


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