If it can be Googled ….

google

“But the teacher said most of the kids who fail the test don’t know the formulas!” Griffin exclaimed as he focused on writing a series of 4 geometry formulas down. I wanted to focus on how to solve the problems, but Griffin was concerned with memorizing the formulas. Is this where Griffin’s valuable learning time should be spent?  Do engineers have all their formulas memorized? or can they Google it?

When I first started teaching I though it was important for students to learn (memorize) everything. Now I think differently. As an adult I don’t always have formulas on recall mode in my mind. I like to look them up to refresh my memory. For my students I list all the formulas we have been working on at the top of tests, along with a word bank for reference. I feel if it can be Googled, I shouldn’t assess it. I want my students understanding how to apply their knowledge, not regurgitate facts. In today’s world everyone is walking around with Google in their pocket.

Schools need to rethink how we assess in the secondary level. Students can do so much more than just site facts. Asking what the chemical symbol for gold (AU) is not going to measure anyone’s intelligence or tell if they are meeting a science standard. A better question would be: What family of elements is gold (AU) most likely to bond with? With a periodic table a student could show their understanding of elements. Assessments must move away from recall level questions up bloom’s taxonomy towards creation.

Blooms-Taxonomy-650x366

Sadly most standardized test are stuck in recall mode. Our society is stuck in a pre-google notion that recall equals intelligence. Recall is just a muscle that if given enough exercise it can be impressive. Many of our students can recite sports teams rosters, quote movies or sing the words to popular songs, does this make them intelligent? No it makes them have information they value. Our students need to learn how to apply ANY knowledge. If I were creating a standardized test, I would want everyone to start on a level playing field. Giving test takers all information needed to solve the problem. Then give space and time for a solution to be found. Instead most test measure recall skills from what might have already been taught.

If a assessment question can be Googled to find an answer, it is not a good question!

 

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Leading a student to knowledge…

horsetowater

“Why do I need to know this Mr. Bloch?” a student cries out from the side of the room. I answer the question carefully to the middle school science class. “We need to know how sunlight is converted into food that we use for energy.” “Why?” he exclaims again, “I know food gives me energy and can Google photosynthesis so why?” Conversations like this happen regularly in today’s classrooms. Teachers present knowledge and parts of their class don’t care to learn. Roughly 1/3 of my students display apathy to learning new things. When was the last time you needed to know the in’s and out’s of photosynthesis?

Growing up I didn’t question what I was learning, I just knew it was required to move forward so I learned. So did most of my classmates. When I was trained as a teacher, I learned what to teach, how to teach the material in engaging ways, how to manage disruptive behaviors, how to adapt lessons to students with learning disabilities and how to assess learning. I never learned how to make students thirsty for learning. Is that a teachers job? Yes, but without the help of a society that places value on education it can be very difficult. Society judges schools on their test scores, these scores require the students to want to learn what is needed. (What these tests actually measure needs to be addressed in another blog post. )

great teaching

Teachers need to focus their instruction on the art of motivation! We need to engage students in their desire to learn new ideas. Reading “Teach Like a Pirate” by Dave Burgess opened my eyes to this just over 4 years ago. Now their are a slew of incredible teacher written books that address the idea of creating thirst in our students. Our students see the power in knowledge but they can Google all facts. Students need to see that applying knowledge to new situations is what separates individuals and grants power.  When looking at the top 10 skills needed for workforce in 2020: communication and collaboration are the most critical skills are students need for their future. For the past 4 summers I have spent countless hours rethinking HOW I teach to make my students PARCHED.

Remain ever thirsty for knowledge my friends.