A Curious Teacher - Part Three
I am still unpacking many of the insights and lessons shared in Brian Grazer’s book, A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life. One of my initial takeaways was around the idea of curiosity not being a sought after or overly valued quality in schools. The other insight gained was about how the notion of “good enough” can by problematic in life but certainly in our work as teachers. My third and potentially finally takeaway for now is around the notion of the Internet and its impact on curiosity. In his book Grazer states the following:
“It was Karl Marx who called religion ‘the opium of the masses.’ He meant that religion was designed to provide enough answers that people stopped asking questions.
We need to be careful, individually, that the Internet doesn’t anesthetize us instead of inspire us.
There are two things you can’t find on the Internet - just like there were two things Robert Hooke couldn’t find in the Bible or in the decrees of King Charles I:
You can’t search for the answer to questions that haven’t been asked yet.
And you can’t Google a new idea.
The Internet can only tell us what we already know” (Grazer, 2015).
I find this notion interesting and can’t help but relate to it on a personal level. I think we can all remember being in a argument where we tried to remember the name of an actor in a movie or who won a professional sports’ title. Or we have debated about how a particular historical event actually transpired. Those discussions and debates may not have been incredibly important in the grand scheme of things but the interaction was. Now, when a moment like this comes up, a smart phone comes out and the debate is settled with a few strokes of the finger. Is that to say we don’t value the information at our finger tips? No, but I wonder if we loose some of that discussion and curiosity that often fuels great conversations. For me, conversations are the great catalyst of learning and therefore something I treasure and value above nearly all else.
Another layer to this is Grazer’s notion of the Internet anesthetizing us as people. There is certainly a level of truth to this when you think about how the use of the Internet often plays out in schools. Often is purely a resource where students go to and then regurgitate information they find. They are not left to wonder and all of their questions are answers in the search bar in Google or Wolfram Alpha. This is where the role of the teacher comes in and how we use questions.
I have heard many people say, “If a kid can google the answer to your test questions, then your questions are no good.” While I agree with the sentiment of this, I think it is a bit too polarizing and one of those sayings that look better on a poster than in real life. Kids do need content that Google can provide with a quick search. However, more importantly is that students can use that knowledge to ask more questions and think of ideas Google doesn’t have. In many cases the Internet has become the end point to a learning activity and not the starting point.
How can we ensure the Internet, and technology in general is being used as a way to spark curiosity and lead to more questions and deeper ideas? Can we move past the Internet being the end point of learning and source of consumption and into a space where it pushes learners to deeper thinking and more questions?