Google in the 21st Century

My team argued in the class debate this week that schools should not teach things that can be googled… and we did not win the class vote!

Now, I can’t say I am surprised. Although I do agree that schools should not teach things that can be googled, I understand the flip side of the argument as well. Today’s ever-changing world is hard to navigate through for both students and teachers. To view my groups opening argument, click on the blue print! (We used WeVideo to create the video, a great tool for collaboration). While researching this topic, we highlighted three critical points:

  1. Knowledge is changing faster than ever before, how can we possibly keep up as teachers?
  2. Are we teaching our students essential skills needed for life in the 21st century, such as critical thinking, problem solving and collaboration?
  3. Technology provides us with tools to be efficient and also with the opportunity to create meaningful learning versus rote learning.



Google is beginning to take over our classrooms and I see this in the high school that I teach at. The school is equipped with Google Chromebooks, teachers have Google Classroom’s set up for different classes, and students research anything they take interest in. The New York Times published an article written by Natasha Singer that explains how “Google is helping to drive a philosophical change in public education — prioritising training children in skills like teamwork and problem-solving while de-emphasising the teaching of traditional academic knowledge, like math formulas. It puts Google, and the tech economy, at the centre of one of the great debates that has raged in American education for more than a century: whether the purpose of public schools is to turn out knowledgeable citizens or skilled workers.” Quite frankly, I think there needs to be a healthy balance and that schools should be turning out knowledgeable citizens that are also skilled workers. It is crazy to think that many students we are teaching right now, will have jobs that do not currently exist.

We should be teaching students how to learn versus what to learn. Children are growing up in a generation where more information is readily available to them than any generation before. Because of this, technology has welcomed and linked members of society to a life of lifelong learning. The unfortunate thing is that we are trying to overcome and navigate through this 21st century information overload with learning behaviours that are thousands of years old. Although I believe that memorisation is not “learning” I do value its importance and understand its value in regards to learning skills such as reading, writing and multiplication.  However, more abstract ideas require more abstract learning and much of this can be taught through the use of technology and search engines such as Google.

I was speaking with my grandma last night who is 84 years old and she talked about how school was hard for her because she couldn’t remember things quickly and when asked to write a test, she forgot much of what she studied. To say that these traditional practices are proven effective seems wrong. Students in today’s 21st century struggle with these demands, as did students from previous generations. That being said, I think today’s generation has even more barriers to overcome because of the mass increase in the use of technology. My group member Channing Degelman asked in our team debate, when in our current careers are we ever placed in a room with a pen and paper, silenced and told to write down everything we know about particular topics….. never.

In my role as a high school learning resource teacher, I watch my students struggle immensely with particular assignments that require memorisation of information. Many of my students are challenged in areas of short term working memory and long term retrieval of information. As a result, they don’t grasp concepts because their focus is solely on trying to pack their brain full of information. Many times, this results in a feeling of defeat which instils hesitancy towards learning.

If I could change curriculum, I would place more emphasis on experiential learning throughout all subject areas. As educators, we know that the more we teach about a topic, the more we learn. If we flip this around, I believe that the more our students become their own teachers, the more they will learn.

So, ponder this: Does teaching mean we need to continually relay information to students or does teaching mean we can take on a role of a facilitator or a guide to learning relying on resources such as Google to assist us in this role?



I think there a lot of question marks when pondering what the future of learning in a digital age will look like and that right now there is no definitive right or wrong answer. Now and in years to come, I believe the following questions posed by Davidson & Goldberg will continue to be hot topics for debate:

  1. If we face a future where every person has (easy access to) a
    laptop or networked mobile device, what will it mean?
  2. What will it mean for institutionally advocated, mediated, and activated
  3. How will educators use these tools and this moment? How will users—learners—adapt them to learning functionality, access, and productive learning possibilities?
  4. Will what is learned and the new methods of learning alter as a consequence,
    becoming quicker but shallower, more instrumental and less reflective?
  5. How can we use these tools to inspire our most traditional institutions of
    learning to change?

2 thoughts on “Google in the 21st Century

Add yours

  1. I really liked your post Jodie! You made some great points. I loved when you said we need to teach how to learn vs what to learn. I think it should be a large part of our role as teachers. There is so much information out there, it is important that teachers show students how to decipher the information they are taking in. I never thought about how students today have so many more barriers because of the increase in use of technology. On top of understanding the topic, we are expecting them to learn how to use all of these tools, and know what information is credible. It is a lot of pressure!

    I find it revealing that your Grandma and her issues with memorization much like the students today. You say you would change the curriculum to be more experiential learning and I couldn’t agree more. When students experience something, and feel something toward the assignment, it means something to them, and they remember it.


  2. Great post! You posed the question, does teaching mean we need to continually relay information to students or does teaching mean we can take on a role of a facilitator or a guide to learning relying on resources such as Google to assist us in this role? I completely agree that our role as teachers has completely changed from the ‘passer of information’ to the facilitator of learning. Experiential learning is definitely the direction I see education going. You’re so right in saying that when our students become the teachers, they learn on a much deeper level. Well said!


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