A perennial challenge for teachers everywhere is how to engage students and keep them
engaged. Wherever I travel, I hear the same stories about how students are not engaged, and how they can be so easily distracted. Recently, technology (the handheld, personal variety) has come under fire from those who claim that it is a distraction in the classroom and lecture hall. Others have retorted that if teaching was engaging there would be no distractions - students would be completely focused and intent on their learning.
One of the remedies for lack of engagement is to present students with wicked problem
to solve, or a irresistible question to answer. Some teachers have said to me that everything is searchable on Google, and that it doesn't take students long to crack such challenges or questions. My response is - oh really? You're probably asking the wrong questions then! I'm going to argue here that there are many questions that are unGoogleable. I wrote about this idea 5 years ago
, when I discussed some of the issues around the nature of knowledge and knowing. There were several responses, many of which were searching and considered about the role of teachers, the process by which we come to know and the function of technology in education.
Let's start with the simple ones. I'm sure you can come up with some simple, unGoogleable questions for your students. Anyone can, if they spend a little time thinking about what they want students to learn in any given knowledge domain. One of my favourite unGoogleable questions has been posed to audiences across the globe, and specifically to medical colleagues. No-one has arrived at the answer without a great deal of thinking, searching and analysis. It is this: In the normal human body, what do each of us have exactly five of?
Common responses are digits on the hand, which is not strictly the answer, because most people have ten. Some might respond with senses in the body, to which my answer is no - there are at least seven
, and some claim there are more than twenty senses in the human body. Another response is systems of the body, but again this is incorrect, because there are eleven systems
. Some try for lumbar vertebrae - but strictly, this is also incorrect, because there are more than 5 vertebrae, and 'lumbar' is a medical categorisation. Most people are stumped at this point.
Once you know
the answer, you will then see that it is a gateway into deeper questions around anatomy and physiology - how the human body is constructed and functions. As with all unGoogleable questions, the challenge is to provide students with a significant challenge, after which the process of learning will escalate to a point where students are critically questioning and analysing their knowledge. Teachers who wish to engage their students, should ask unGoogleable questions. The learning is in the struggle, and students will not find it easy. How will they meet the challenge when they can't simply search for it online? What will they do next? And what other learning will it lead to when they discover an answer?
UnGoogleable questions by Steve Wheeler
was written in Plymouth, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
Posted by Steve Wheeler from Learning with e's