Sunday, May 18, 2008

"Just Google It"

I have to underscore what Ian Jukes writes in his blog yesterday about ADHD being so prevalent "in US, Canada, Britain and a little bit in New Zealand and Australia." Jukes writes:

We hear complaints all the time that kids just can’t concentrate – they can’t focus – they can’t even remember the names of the states or their capitals. Meanwhile, as Bob Hughes points out, the kids are thinking, “Why in the world do I have to memorize this when I can Google the answer in 2 seconds?” This is all happening while the teacher is thinking, “What’s a Google?”And that same kid, who can’t remember the names of the states or the capitals, can instantly and enthusiastically tell you the lyrics from a 1000 songs or the characteristics of dozens of game figures.

What Jukes so simply and beautifully illustrates is the importance of relevance. We live in a forever changed, chronically changing, digital world that is becoming increasingly information laded and socially interconnected. We don't have a choice in this reality. It just is.

Why should a child memorize state capitals when they can Google it in seconds? Kids are asking this question, as are their parents.

If the answer is because we have always done it that way, WONK!!!! you lose, and so do your students and their parents. If the answer is because we have not considered doing it differently, or we don't know what good alternatives are, well, that is a honest starting point and you can build a new system from there. What is the new framework of knowledge and skills needed when information is so accessible and available? The answer to this question is not easy, nor obvious, but I know it is the right question.

I think the question about memorizing state capitals is reflective of a school's mindset regarding education in the 21st century. It seems to be a simple question but I think it cuts to the core. A school's answer reflects a head-in-the-sand-make-the-world-go-away sort of denial or a brave determination to be relevant.

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