Unofficially obsessed with Google.

Search is a form of intelligence

12/19/2005 11:29:00 AM
Elizabeth Weise of USA Today suggests to us this morning (in an article with well-meaning but unsuccessful focus), that Google is replacing our long-term memory. Unfortunately, she spends much of the time sounding amazed that someone would think to search Google for a recipe or country capital before turning to a recipe book or encyclopedia. Despite her luddism, Weise does excite an argument that has increasingly frustrated my trust in the U.S. education system--it stems from her assertion that Internet users are more likely to quickly research the answer to a query than to retrieve it from or install it within their memories.

Throughout my schooling, I recall being tested nearly 100% of the time on how accutely I could recall a fact from memory. While I put myself to work memorizing for those tools of the teaching system, I always felt jaded in that an entire aspect of my intelligence was being shorted on what should have been high marks. It irked me that the kid with the mindless ability to replicate a piece of paper in his head after staring at it while studying for an hour would always win out over the student who could track down the same information and present it keenly within 2 minutes of being asked (using Google, a reference library, or any other compilation of sources).

There has always been an inherent bias toward rewarding replication, rote memorization, and what I often heard in the classes themselves, regurgitation. I even sat for "regurgitation quizzes." Never was I given what to me would be a more appropriate estimation of total understanding--a research test. How aptly can you wield the sources at hand and provide a holistic or detailed solution to this query? There is a significant level of fact relating, problem solving, and solution creation that takes place in the event of a layered search project. You may say "hey, that's a research paper, idiot!" but to that I say, then why is the focus of 75% of those exercises grammar and style? There's a place in our education system for encouraging and rewarding the ability to accumulate a base of knowledge, regardless of one's ability to correctly punctuate appositives. (This is not to denounce the importance of grammar. It is just to point out that the focus of other coursework should be more substantive than it currently is.) I've always thought that "resourcefulness" would be an excellent addition to the current categories of scholarship rewarded in education.

My hope is that Google's overwhelming revolution of the way students develop will eventually permeate the teaching side of education and bring us an entirely new style of learning. Let's hope that someday we're hearing our kids talk about their latest Google test! Maybe then these schools would be churning out real geniuses rather than fact-spewing idiots.


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