Post Debate: What’s the Point?

This week, we were treated to a wonderfully engaging debate that, it can be argued, goes at the foundations of what it means to be a teacher. Nicole, Channing, and Jodie savagely duked it out with Catherine, Amanda, and Shelby over whether or not (or to what extent) we should be focusing on knowledge that can be acquired by googling.

This topic is not at all as simple as it seems, and opened a can of worms that had us discussing what we are doing as teachers, as well as the merits of having such a  wealth of knowledge at our fingertips. At one point, even the well-worn question over memorization reared it’s head. It was a good time!

I unleashed my own predisposition prior to the debate last weekend. The debate did not do a whole lot to move my predisposition to be honest, but it did help me see this as the controversial, and perhaps confusing, topic it is.

Specifically, we were prompted to examine the topic through a self-reflective lens.

So , I consider the kinds of changes that this massive expansion of knowledge has on my own profession.

For my part, I do not really see this increased access to knowledge as a threat to my position, or any teaching position. Knowledge simply being accessible does not really intrude into what we do as teachers.  But, as I will argue below, it will (already has) forced us to evolve in our practice.

Nicole, Channing and Jodie shared an engaging Tedtalk from Pavan Arora. In it, he shares the startling revelation that our base of human knowledge is doubling every 1-2 years …

With knowledge growing at such an exponential rate, how would we even know, as teachers, where to begin? What do we consider fundamental, core knowledge that needs to be passed on to our students?

I can’t help but consider the radical changes to the face  of literacy, as an example. There was a time that a student’s ability to meaningfully and independently access curriculum was predicated by their being able to physically read text off a page. Don’t get me wrong, reading and writing is incredibly important, and learning to read rightfully dominates our primary grades.

But …

As an LRT, the manner in which assistive technology can now help students with learning disabilities bypass their challenge and actually access curriculum on their own… it’s so very incredibly exciting. No longer do students with these challenges in literacy depend on a scribing teacher to record their ideas for them. They can do it as independently as anybody, using tools that other kids think are cool (speech to text, screen reading). All I’m asking is: is it knowledge itself that remains fundamental, or the way that students access and employ that knowledge?

Let me take this a little further in deploying another article shared by Nicole, Channing and Jodie: THE OBJECTIVE OF EDUCATION IS LEARNING, NOT TEACHING. The authors interestingly ask: Why should children — or adults, for that matter — be asked to do something computers and related equipment can do much better than they can? Why doesn’t education focus on what humans can do better than the machines and instruments they create?

It’s a fair question to ask, isn’t it? As a teacher, I want to make sure what what we are doing is in fact relevant for what our children are going to need to find meaningful employment in their economy. The Future Work Skills 2020 report succinctly highlights how the skills that will be required are dramatically different from our own. They discuss the rising importance of skills like social intelligence, new-media literacy, cognitive load management

 Media Literacy

Knowing that we are in a world where not only is our access to information on the rise, but our base of knowledge is growing dramatically, I can’t help but be concerned and feel responsible for helping students develop the abilities to navigate and make use of this unlimited knowledge at our fingertips.

My own worries are only amplified by concerns brought up by Daniel “The phenomena of fake news, misinformation, propaganda and pseudoscience have ravaged the internet in the past few years” Nicole shares similar concerns in remarking how…” Every day we are bombarded with information all around us. Whether it is in a store, on a billboard, on social media, the radio or pretty much anywhere we go – there is something to be consumed.”  Are they ever right. The controversies surrounding fake news and its impact are regular topics of conversation in our Ed Tech courses, and for good reason. There are, without a doubt, forces that actively use this confusing overabundance of information to advance agendas and misinformation of their own.

So what do I want?

So what is it that I want, exactly, for my own practice? I feel like I’ve been all over the place in this post. However, if there is some sort of common thread here, I think it has to be something along the lines of a recognition that we do, in fact, have a vast pool of knowledge at our disposal. To pretend otherwise, as a teacher, would be irresponsible and doing a disservice to my students.

Thanks for reading!





on “Post Debate: What’s the Point?
6 Comments on “Post Debate: What’s the Point?
  1. Pingback: I don’t know. Just Google it. | My Teaching Story

  2. I completely agree Joe, this topic was confusing and controversial for me as well! I too considered the large focus on reading and writing in the primary grades and how these skills lay foundations for higher level thinking and creativity. Technology has certainly allowed for a re-imagination of learning when it comes to thinking about how students are able to use assistive technology in a way they would not have previously been able to do. This debate topic has so many elements and your post touched on many of those elements in a thoughtful manner. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Even though I was on the disagree team this week, I think you make some very great points, Joe! It is a very controversial topic and there is so much navigating to be done on the web that I think it is our job as educators to make sure our students understand how to find what they need while attempting to avoid fake news and misinformation. I think you are completely right when you say that we would be doing a disservice to our students and we would be very irresponsible as educators to ignore the fact that the internet is here and not teach our students the importance of being responsible on it and knowing “how to”, instead of “what.” Great post!

  4. A fellow LRT! I love your points about access to technology and how it helps learners who are challenged to learn in the traditional classroom due to individual needs. Technology has provided SO many students with tools to find success which as a result helps build their confidence.

    This was a very hard topic to debate because there were so many different directions to go with it (I understand why you feel like you were all over the place in your post). I found your point about not being intimidated by the wealth of new knowledge that is available. A teachers role may constantly shift throughout the ages and I think its important we remember that “teaching” can mean a variety of things. Maybe we should call ourselves facilitators of learning instead 🙂

    Great post!

  5. Excellent Post Joe and an artistically organized read. The debate this week was interesting and was focused on one of the questions that we educators will always think of but hardly discuss I couldn’t agree more when you state “ I do not really see this increased access to knowledge as a threat to my position, or any teaching position. Knowledge simply being accessible does not really intrude into what we do as teacher” we as educators must teach our students and Just because the information is available on google doesn’t mean that our students can analyze it in an appropriate way. we must teach our students to understand themselves as learners and understand how to access material, we must make the critical thinkers to analyze the information and our learners need guidance. Once again great read and looking forward to your debate on Monday evening.

  6. As always, I appreciate your LRT perspective! I struggle with the same question: is it knowledge itself that remains fundamental, or the way that students access and employ that knowledge? Seeing so many kiddos utilizing technology to access text and share their knowledge when they would never have been able to do so independently before, makes me so happy and hopeful for them. For so many, the acquisition of knowledge is not so easy. Thanks for sharing!

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