Does Google Help Students Learn
Google Search is the best friend of most of us nowadays. Anything that we need to know is typed in the search engine bar, and it comes to us as in a sort of miracle. It has become such a common thing that we even turned it into a verb. We don’t search online anymore; we simply google it. When it comes to the classroom, the scenario is no different. Students are relying on Google to do their assignments, find lists of the best writing services, and do their homework from very early age. And they are being encouraged by their parents and teachers to do so.
But what we don’t know is how beneficial it can be to their learning process. Maybe finding answers so easily has damaged our ability to memorize things and to explore our own ideas and imagination?
Scientists are concerned by the consequences
A study by the psychologists Nicholaus S. Noles and Judith H. Danovitch at the University of Louisville is one of many trying to determine the impact of searching for answers online might have on our future intellectual development. According to it, 4-5-year-old children are still very keen on asking questions to adults. But the situation changes when they turn 8 years old when the computers become more exciting to them.
Still even 8 years old children will rely on computers to solve their doubts less often than adults. The alarming conclusion though was that 5-8 years old children would primarily believe in an answer from a computer if it conflicts with what an adult says. And considering that not all that you can find online is entirely true neither safe, it can turn into something highly dangerous.
Adrian F. Ward of the University of Colorado and Matthew Fisher of Yale University have also found in their experiments that people tend to think that they have better answers, and even a higher understanding of facts just because they have found it online. In other words, the internet is working as an ego booster of some kind independent of its accuracy.
But they still can see the bright side
Even though there is a raising fear of how much students are dependent on the internet to solve their problems, there is also a bright side to it. When Judith H. Danovitch at the University of Louisville asked 125 undergraduates to answer 30 difficult questions about animals, she got some interesting results.
One group was allowed to look for answers on the internet, while the other group used booklets. Then they were tested on the answers later on the same day and after 24 hours. In both cases, the students that searched online were more likely to remember the answers than those who have learned them from printed materials.
The primary explanation for it was the idea that, maybe, because it is so easy to find information online, that your brain faces less fatigue, letting it free to learn faster. Still, it is still controversial to say if the same results would be found if the students were less comfortable while searching topics online.
Does searching on Google make it TOO easy?
One of the most common criticisms against searching on Google for educational purposes is that it makes everything too easy. That we don’t have to think at all, not even to find the best sources as Google algorithm promises to do it for us. But we know that it is entirely true.
Depending on the topic that you are researching the quality of content that you can find online can be quite poor. You won’t find links enough, or the information provided by the ones that you find aren’t really relevant. And while many of us can distinguish the good from the bad, not everybody can – especially not many those of very young age.
Plus, it is not for common knowledge how to find better content using long tail keywords. Or searching on Google Scholar, for instance. Many people don’t know that Wikipedia contains many mistakes and that news can be easily faked. And the sad news is that not all teachers are prepared to clarify these issues to their students.
Features and tools like Google Now and Siri as ready to answers to questions you haven’t even made yet. And while it does make our life easier, it doesn’t help us to improve our ability to an inquiry about the world outside either.
Remembering only what we need
On the other hand, many scholars and educators are an enthusiast of technology. They say that it can provide us with the basic information that we need and automatize some of our repetitive tasks, so we have more time to be creative.
While many people complain that they can’t remember anybody’s birthday anymore – as social media will do it for us – others will think that it is great because it wasn’t crucial that we could remember it in the first place. That less energy our brain uses trying to memorize who works where more, it can be directed to planning and take action.
The bottom line
It seems that it is inevitable that online search will continue to guide our learning process from now on. The tools are available to anyone with internet access, even if only momentarily, and the volume of information that it can provide us can’t be achieved by any library in the world.
So it is crucial to take the discussion to another level. If we want to think that finding answers more quickly is great, we will certainly be correct about it. But the delicate point in the discussion here is how students are being guided on their way to distinguish genuine and relevant information online. And how to use the answer they found to elaborate their own ideas.
And the solution to this problem is teachers better prepared to accept and manage the online resources available to their students. It might have become the time when classes should start with a reflection and guidance on how to use the internet, and then take it from there.