Monday, June 19, 2017

Questions That Can't Be Answered by Google


I would say that I am 75% yes and 25% no on this recent Twitter post. (Those percentages are completely made up, I really do not know how I would quantify this idea.) I do not believe that we should be creating assessments and activities where every answer can be memorized, but I do believe that that searching for some answers that could have been memorized from a lecture or found in a textbook has value. 
In this new narrative, learning ceases to focus on consuming information or knowledge that’s no longer scarce. Instead, it’s about asking questions, working with others to find the answers, doing real work for real audiences, and adding to, not simply taking from, the storehouse of knowledge that the Web is becoming. It’s about developing the kinds of habits and dispositions that deep, lifelong learners need to succeed in a world rife with information and connections.”  Will RichardsonWhy School?: How Education Must Change When Learning and Information Are Everywhere
The idea that educators should focus more on skills and less on content has been around for a few years now. The growth of BYOD and 1 to 1 initiatives have shifted where we all learn. Teaching has become more challenging because educators are no longer the only best source of knowledge. We need to learn to be both teachers and facilitators. 

Where do you go when you have a question or want to learn how to do something? Shouldn't we make sure our students are learning how to effectively find an answer when an "expert" is not in the room? 

  • Siri . . . ?
  • Alexa . . . ?
  • OK Google . . . ?
  • Google?
  • Yahoo?
  • Bing?
  • YouTube?
  • Something else?
How does a teacher avoid questions that have answers that are a simple Google search away? Have you ever taken a look at one of your activities from a textbook and searched some of the questions in quotes? You might find the activity with the answers available for anyone. 

I teach AP Environmental Science so I will admit that it is often pretty easy for me to create some questions that can't be Googled. The world of Environmental Science often does not have questions with established answers. We also have a great deal of content that the students must know, so the quest for knowledge never ends. 

I am still learning how to best incorporate digital resources, but here are a few things that I do to help my students use the web and search as a learning resource.

1. All of our quizzes are open internet. While I occasionally have partner quizzes, the only resource I tell them they cannot use is other students in the class. I work very hard to emphasize that just getting the answer from another student does not help them or me understand what they know or still need to learn.
Here are some tips for creating an assessment or creating an activity that is open internet.

  • It is ok to have some questions that students can find the answer using a Google search. The students appreciated this and I think it helps them learn to use search effectively. I like to believe that they are gaining some additional as they look for the answer. 
  • Set a time limit for the assessment. I don't want my students to Google every question, so I let them know that they should expect to run out of time if they are trying to Google everything.
  • Most of our multiple choice questions have 5 choices. I try really hard to have no throwaway answers. I am often looking for the best answer, so Googling any question may not always lead them to the best answer. I think 3 or 4 options makes it too easy for them to narrow down the search. I do occassionaly like to use a creative true / false question that gets them thinking. 
  • I sometimes throw in some "Mark all that apply" questions. Often there is more than one correct answer for these questions and sometimes there is not. These questions drive my students crazy because they really need to look at the question and the answers carefully. 
  • Look at the data, if a question has 100 percent of the students getting it right then you might want to do a Google search yourself to see how the students are "finding" this answer. 
  • Some open-ended or free-response questions are necessary. One of my favorites is, "What is something you know about this unit that was not on the quiz?"
  • Follow up with some assessments that do not allow them to use any additional resources. I love to compare the results with my students. "Why did you get it right here, but not there?" is a favorite discussion question.
When creating a digital activity I try to build in a mix of different web resources. I don't want to always just focus on text, videos, images, or interactives. 
Here are a few tips for tips for creating an activity that is open internet.
  • I try to find resources that allow me to blend different media. My best activities include text of all sorts, images, audio, and video. 
  • Student choice is important. Don't just provide them a single resource for the concept they are exploring. I love them to compare and contrast what they learn from different sources connected to the same content. 
  • When I create a web-based activity I try not to ask too many specific questions where they can ignore any content not connected to the question. Most of my questions are opened ended on activities. For example, "What are 5 new things you learned from the resource?" or "What takeaways would you share with someone who did not see this resource? Get the students talking to each other during the activity. 
  • HyperDocs are a great framework for creating digital activities. I try to build digital activities that are more than a worksheet of questions. I want students to collaborate, create, think critically, and communicate effectively. 
What tips do you have to help teachers shift away from questions that can be answered with a Google search? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Extend your learning with this connected Mindshift Post.
How Has Google Affected The Way Students Learn?


2 comments:

  1. This is an interesting idea. As an AP Lit. teacher, I want my students to actually read and experience the text. Fewer m/c tests and more hyperdoc lessons seem to be motivating and engaging them in the challenging task of reading and rereading challenging texts. Thx for sharing.

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  2. I love those images and your philosophy. Your question of "why did you get it right here, but not there?" is a great way for students to analyze the way questions are written, especially multiple answer or visual vs. text based questions, and will greatly help them on the AP test.

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