Children ill-equipped for digital age if all they can do is google

The Times is reporting claims from a leading academic suggesting an emphasis on teaching facts and learning by rote has led to a generation of young people whose only qualification is being able to use websites like Google and Wikipedia…

David White, one of the leaders of the Department of Continued Education at the University of Oxford, said the current focus in schools of learning by rote, or completing essays and exams by reciting information, was not fit for the digital age.

He argues that as students can easily discover facts online, with most answers a few clicks away, the focus in teaching at schools and universities should be on “critical thinking” from a young age.

“Memory should not be the thing that is fundamentally assessed,” he said. “We’ve produced a generation of students who, when they write their CVs, they are effectively saying, ‘I can Google’. Are we creating a generation of learners whose main skillset is to be able to use the internet?”

He also suggested that most homework set by teachers could easily be solved by looking at articles on Wikipedia. “If the best answer to your homework assignment is a Wikipedia page, is anyone learning anything?” he said. “We need to shift from getting the correct answer to discussing why something is the correct answer.”

…The research has found that there is a “learning black market”, where students use Wikipedia as one of the primary sources for study information, but that they decline to admit this to teachers. This means teachers believe that students are adequately completing tasks, when in fact they are not learning in a way that is useful.

More at: Children ill-equipped for digital age if all they can do is google (subscription required)

Is David White correct on this? Is it fundamentally flawed to be asking children to provide answers in homework when they are only a few clicks away? He suggests asking instead why something is the correct answer – do you see that as a viable approach? Is it something you already do? How do you think teaching and homework need to be changed to avoid students copying too much from Wikipedia? Please give us your thoughts and ideas in the comments or via Twitter…

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Categories: Teaching.


  1. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove Couldn’t agree more with this, but as a teacher my opinion doesn’t matter. DfE think he’s wrong & they do matter bafflingly

  2. Alibrarylady

    SchoolsImprove another reason why schools should have qualified school librarian – teach how to access & use info on internet

  3. B4Susan

    SchoolsImprove do we want people who find this article and accept it as rote or ones who can evaluate it? We get what we teach

  4. BethGittos

    gper56 hmm. What about assigning tasks where finding different perspectives or pov is the aim and argue for your point of view?

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