Above the largest bulletin board in my Media Studies classroom is perhaps the most frequently referenced resource in my teaching practice. It is a large sign that says ‘Google is your friend’. When you teach a practical, skills based subject that has a heavy reliance on creative software packages (Adobe suite, Final Cut etc), this is a mantra that becomes invaluable.
I had a new batch of year 10 Media students this year. I taught them the basics of Photoshop and Illustrator via a gamefied system that I will detail in another post, and then I let them loose on some practice coursework – making a film poster that observes conventions of a particular genre. At first, they panicked.
‘Miss, Miss!’ They cried, almost as one, ‘How do I do X in Photoshop?’ (Where X= 25 completely different things).
I pointed to the sign. There was dumbfounded silence for a moment, and then horror set in.
‘But, Miss! Aren’t you going to teach us?’
‘Of course I’m going to teach you. I am going to teach you how to find useful resources. I am going to teach you to Google.’
For the next two weeks, I ruthlessly refused to teach them any Photoshop. Instead, I taught them to define search queries, sift through tutorials to find suitable ones for their ability, and adapt resources to fit the particular needs of their project. Slowly, the helpless bleating was replaced by a sense of purpose.
The battle was won the day my neediest student turned to me and said ‘Miss, how do I…’ He paused, then his face lit up. ‘Google is my friend!’
He found a blog post that showed him how to do what he wanted without any intervention from me.
It’s like the teach-a-man-to-fish parable. If you teach a kid to turn a picture of her friend into a zombie, you have spent thirty minutes with one child teaching them to do a single process that they will use once. Teach a kid to google, and you have given them a real skill for life.
This is definitely easier to do in a classroom with computers so it is of limited use as a go-to strategy for my English lessons, but the same principle applies. It is vastly more important for students to build digital literacy - to have the drive and the knowledge to find out information for themselves - than it is to drill content.