Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Will Google Make Us Smart or Stupid?

(This is an expanded version of the answer I gave to the survey.)

The Big Cuter was born in 1983. He thinks he is 2 years behind those who were "first" to be "raised on the computer".... computer natives according to the Pew Internet Predictions survey. He has never had a teacher whose classroom experience in elementary school or high school included computers. There was no body of knowledge shared by those in pedagogy on the appropriate use of the medium - including search.

Now that his generation is moving into the professional workforce, siring children and living daily with electronic search capabilities, that situation will change. I couldn't encourage my children with any specificity in a medium I didn't understand. My grandchildren (god willing!) will be blessed with parents who've grown up with an understanding of the technology and its capabilities.

There will be no stupid questions - answers will be available and facts, once they are universally accessible, will become less important than what is done with them. Just as the calculator and the smart cash register obviated the need for learning to multiply or subtract, the Google-ization of the world will make information a much less valuable commodity.

If everyone has something, the way to win (and humans do want to win) is to use it better. If everyone with the power to wield a wrench can follow directions - immediately accessible and free directions - then plumbers might have to start showing up on time. If you don't have to spend time gaining access to the facts, you can devote your energies to using those facts in a more productive fashion.

I don't see this as the start of the apocalypse. I see it as the dawn of a new and very different age. Just imagine what Lewis and Clark could've done with a GPS........


  1. Would they have met Sacagawea if they'd had a GPS? Would we have as many great jokes about guys who get lost? All teasing aside, great post. I can't claim to really understand my children's world nor imagine my grandchildren's, but my impressions of them indicate they'll be up to it. And they'll have some great tools! Thanks for writing. I'll be reading.

  2. Of course they'd have met Sacagawea.... SOMEONE would have had to have read the manual and understood the device and somehow I just know that, being guys, they would never have taken the time .........

    Glad to have you in the Burrow.... thanks for reading!

  3. Lovely post. Reminds me of the epiphany I had in my latest school experience... after spending thirty minutes googling information and another thirty putting it into power point I presented my 'major project' to the bored kids who'd all done the same thing. Later as I listened patiently while the professor (my age) gushed over the 'quality of the work' I realized that she, like me, had gone to school (my first time) back in a day where the amount of information I had just presented would have taken me hours in a library pouring over books and ‘back in the day’ there was no pretty, pretty power point so putting out effort meant typing rather than hand writing papers. So, as I listened to her praise, I realized that I was passing through a small window bubble where the teachers had no idea how little the students had to do for the 'big grades'. I'm still pondering what this change means... is it just giving students more time... was the original learning goal of presentations to get the information or was it to learn perseverance in research ... will we lose whatever the original goal was because the next generation of educators who aren't wowed by power point are also the ones who got away with wowing with it?

  4. Fascinating, Anon.....

    School is wasted on the young, isn't it?! The fear is that the teachers are so far behind that they can't make the technology work beneath the assignment. As you say, "wow" is relative.

    I always thought the goal was to organize information in an interesting fashion and to present it so that the listeners could answer a question or two afterward... and that most of them were still awake :) Public speaking is a skill - that's what I was getting at, I think. That the goals will be moving around.

    After all, moving a giant rock is a man and a machine today, where 200 years ago it was a week's work. Does that make either less valuable? I don't know.... but I'm thinking about it.

    Thanks for reading,


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