In which layer of the atmosphere is ozone considered a pollutant?
(D) Troposphere (HSC Chemistry Paper 2015)
What is the pH of a 0.018 mol L−1 solution of hydrochloric acid?
(D) 1.74 (HSC Chemistry Paper 2015)
A solution contains carbonate, chloride and sulfate ions.
Describe a sequence of tests that could be used to confirm the presence of each of these ions.
Include ONE relevant chemical equation. (HSC Chemistry Paper 2015)
In less then 5 minutes this evening I could answer Question 1 - Troposphere. Google gave me a formula which I used with my calculator to answer the second question leading me to the answer 1.74. (I don’t have the answers here, so chemistry teachers correct me if I am wrong.) And the last question? Well, I can tell you after 20 seconds on the internet that I can confirm carbonate ions by testing with limewater and I am sure if I bothered I could quickly find out how to test for chloride and sulphate… but let’s be honest, I can’t be bothered.
This got me thinking. I googled which HSC Course was apparently the hardest - Extension Maths 2 and Extension Hebrew. Hmmm… Extension Maths 2 has me a little stumped. I actually have to apply stuff to other stuff. However, if I have the formula and a calculator how hard can it be? The Hebrew paper is not available online, which is a shame because I know how to use google translate.
So I tried a History paper. Tricky. They wanted me to have an opinion. Formulate an argument. Can’t google my opinion can I? And then there is the Drama Exam. Did you know they have to perform their own piece…created from their own minds…using their own creativity…and they have to do it with other people???? Can’t google that. Real life experience right here people, but I guess it won’t scale well.
And I could go on, but I think I will just get to my point. Why are we teaching and testing stuff we can google? Why aren’t we just teaching students how to google? Teaching students to source the information they need and apply it? Does rote learning have a place at all? What is the point of learning factual information that no one is going to retain after the exam? What sort of examination is it if I can just google the information and have the answer in less then 5 minutes?
I am not trying to be irritating and I am not down playing the importance of Chemistry or any other subject. However, I am advocating for a change to our teaching, a difference in the way we learn, an alternative way of assessing.
Let me expand by drawing on the lives of two male adults I know. One has a number of university degrees including a Bachelor Degree in Electrical Engineering, Masters in Engineering, MBA’s coming out his ears. The other is an operational police detective… dropped out in year 10, underwent a trade, went back to TAFE to do his HSC and joined the police. Each of them are smart in their own rights. I often refer to the later as street smart. However, if I needed help in a critical situation, needed someone to think out of the box, needed someone who could solve an immediate problem, I would call the policeman… not the degreeman. Not someone who can google and reference an essay, but someone who can think on his feet, problem solve, relate to the people around him.
I watch kids stress about memorising facts day in and day out and I wonder why.
“Miss, we HAVE to memorise this by next period.”
“We have a test.”
“Can you google it…”
“Um, I guess so.”
“So what is the point?”
Do you see my issue? Let’s teach them stuff they can’t google. Let’s test them on applying and creating rather then just knowing. Bloom was no idiot when he worked out his taxonomy. So, why are we still testing knowledge? Knowledge is at our figure tips. This generation does not need to know. This generation needs to be able to apply, analyse, synthesis, evaluate, create, and make connections.
As Einstein said, “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe.” Let’s not be stupid. Stop teaching the things we can google and start teaching the things that matter.