Thursday, February 25, 2016

Just Google it

I've been bitching all year at the laziest group of students I have ever encountered. When asked questions in class they remain silent. When asked to discuss with a partner, they talk about the party last week instead of the topic at hand. When asked to do some exercises in our chosen field, they pull up a browser and ….

Google.

They try and come up with a word or two that will give them the correct answer so they get As and can catch up on WhatsBook or FaceApp. 

I gave a quiz the other week, and am still seething about one of the answers. I asked for an explanation of something specific we had had in class and I had spent about 30 minutes working through an example.

Sam Smartypants answered: If I needed to know something like that, I would just Google it. 

No, Sam, you would not even be able to spell the name of what I was asking about, and you wouldn't recognize that you needed it if it bit you.


-- Old Fuddyduddy Book-lovin' Suzy from Squarestate

14 comments:

  1. "you wouldn't recognize that you needed it if it bit you."

    This.

    The depressing thing is how often I've heard teachers take the same attidude* as Sam Smartypants, arguing that we don't need to teach 'content' because they can just google it. And not just the edubabble wankers, but actual classroom teachers who really do care what the students learn. I've made very little headway pointing out that until they know enough basic content, they have no idea what to google.

    * "attidude" was originally a typo, but it seemed serendipitously appropriate to Sam Smartypants.

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    1. And THAT is the attitude that results in situations like the one that happened in my colleague's class last week, when George III came up in one of the course readings, and my colleague said, "OK, so who was George III and what else do you know about him?" and there was dead silence, until finally an international student from Nepal raised her hand and said, "Wasn't he the king they were fighting in the American Revolution?" I bet they still teach content in Nepal.

      Delete
    2. Yes, they head for Google. But I watch them do searches (I teach classes in a workshop-like format), and they are amazingly limited. For example, if the topic is hamsters, they type in "hamsters". Other options, such as -- pocket pets, small pets, rodents, companion pets, etc. -- escape them entirely. So searches are part of every day life in these times we live in, but thought is still required.

      When seniors do a panel discussion (an exit requirement when close to graduation), they all remark about the research and hard work that goes into their projects. Moreso than they expected.

      Good. They learned something.

      Academaniac

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  2. I have colleagues like this as well, many of them on-line profs (for whatever that is worth). I had some newbie sit in on my class and then grill me for why I spent so much time on content. Well, because you can't think critically if you DON"T KNOW ANYTHING!!! and as for "just Google it." Well, as someone who spent much of the last two years dealing with doctors and nurses, I'm sure glad my surgeon didn't need to Google it. I am so sad about the state of academia right now. I imagine this is how climatologists and environmentalists have felt for a long time. We are swirling down the toilet pretending it doesn't smell like shit.

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  3. I certainly appreciate the opprobrium heaped on the "just Google it" mentality.

    Indeed, it is impossible to navigate the wonderful innovation and opportunities embodied in the Information Superhighway, if you can't be troubled to learn how do drive.

    On the other hand, I experience moments where content questions go unanswered because the darlings are too lazy to EVEN Google it.

    An allegedly graduate level program provides all assigned readings to students as direct links so they don't even have to take the effort of entering "library.edu" and spending 0.01245 seconds searching for the article - for which they already have the full citation.

    Guess what happens if a link happens to be broken?
    Apparently they forget how to spell even Google.

    Oddly their EMail still works fine because I start being inundated with "OMG, what do I do? The article isn't there" panicked messages.

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    1. From an Unknown ReaderFebruary 25, 2016 at 2:21 PM

      “…I experience moments where content questions go unanswered because the darlings are too lazy to EVEN Google it.”

      God yes! I teach an upper-division Chemistry class where, last week, a student asked what is the electric charge of a simple ion s/he should have memorized from Freshman Chemistry. With the power of a smartphone that s/he chose NOT to use, s/he outed him/herself as:

      1. Lazy
      2. Without shame

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  4. Will they look up a word they don't know? No. They complain that I use words they don't know, but do they ever write them down and then look them up later? No. If they're reading, do they Google words and events they don't know about? No.

    I'd be happy if they Googled *more*, frankly.

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    Replies
    1. I had a senior ask me about the meaning of a word I wrote in commenting on a solution on his exam. He'd never heard it before and neither had anyone in his lab group.

      And what was this ever so exotic, esoteric, sixty-four dollar, dropping from my evidently over-educated vocabulary?

      "Terse."

      ::bangs head on desk::

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    2. I had a student ask what "vague" meant.

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  5. Every semester I get a "Sam Smartypants" in my class who always loudly declares that "if it is important, it's on Google". It used to bug me, but not anymore. Now I simply say "fine, Google your own name".

    Nothing ever comes up. Sam shuts up.

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  6. What we should do, really, is just create open-laptop exams. "Sure, google all you want." Three questions, long-answer problem or essay. Tell them well in advance they get it.

    For extra meanness, make sure that the answer to their question IS actually googleable, but ensure that it requires a specific search that requires them to know detailed terminology, so that "hamster butt cancer" won't pull it up.

    Never done it... but then I've never had a student pull the google thing on me.

    ReplyDelete
  7. What we should do, really, is just create open-laptop exams. "Sure, google all you want." Three questions, long-answer problem or essay. Tell them well in advance they get it.

    For extra meanness, make sure that the answer to their question IS actually googleable, but ensure that it requires a specific search that requires them to know detailed terminology, so that "hamster butt cancer" won't pull it up.

    Never done it... but then I've never had a student pull the google thing on me.

    ReplyDelete
  8. A scene from the not-too-distant future.

    [Two young adults sit at a table, facing the audience. Their faces are partly lit by an open laptop computer on the table in front of them; its screen is hidden from the audience.]

    Snow: OK, Flake, are you ready to take our un-timed, take-home, open-book, team-building exam on general knowledge?

    Flake: Oh, yes I am, Snow. I just know we’re going to do so well! What’s the first problem?

    Snow: Five plus two equals blank.

    Flake: Huh? What that is, I don’t even!

    Snow: I think it may have something to do with these keys in the top row.

    Flake: You mean the F keys?

    Snow: No, silly, not the top top row. The number keys!

    Flake: Oh! Now I know what we’re looking for!

    Snow and Flake together: To the Google!

    Flake: [Types on the laptop’s keyboard.] See? It’s Five Guys! They make hamburgers.

    Snow: I like their fries. OK, next thing. Plus. [Types on keyboard.] What’s Google Plus?

    Flake: I know, right? I heard you can use it to share things, like with Facebook or Instagram, but nobody uses it.

    Snow: Well, I don’t know how to use it. How about we just copy photos of people’s Five Guys meals from Instagram instead?

    Flake: Yeah, we only need two, and then we can move on to the next problem.

    Snow: Done!

    Flake: Wow, that was fast. OK, next problem. What is the central theme of the book, “Dick and Jane See Spot Run”?

    Snow: Awww, a book? Books are haaarrrd! Can’t we just watch it on YouTube or something?

    Flake: No, I have a better idea. Let’s break the problem down piece by piece and search for things we can copy and paste into the answer.

    Snow and Flake together: To the Google!

    Flake: I already know what central theme means, so skip ahead.

    Snow: OK. [Types on keyboard.] D... I.... [Continues typing on keyboard.]

    [They both recoil in wide-eyed astonishment.]

    Flake: Who is that guy and what is he doing with that stapler?

    [Scene.]

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  9. "Indeed, it is impossible to navigate the wonderful innovation and opportunities embodied in the Information Superhighway, if you can't be troubled to learn how do drive."

    Maybe it's not only about being able to drive (i.e., operate the machine with some competence), but also about having some idea of which direction you should go first, and being able to recognize when you're getting making progress towards your destination.

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