The idea of teaching has certainly undergone transformation in the last few decades with the onslaught of technological advances. In the world of Google, our students have the ability to access information, facts and data within seconds from the comfort of their desk, their bedroom or their couch.
I have heard the questions raised, “Is it necessary to teach our students information that they can now so easily access? Why bother? Forget the content and teach them the skills they need to function and survive in our world.”
As I ponder these questions and comments, I imagine a school in which only skills are taught – not content knowledge. My question becomes, in what context would we teach these skills?
In Language Arts, we teach the skills of reading, writing, speaking and listening. What will we read, write and speak about if we take away the content? In Social Studies, we teach the skills of mapping, critical thinking, debate and active inquiry. What will we map, debate or inquire about if not the content information? In Science, we teach the skills of inquiry, research and investigation. It is difficult to inquire, research and investigate ‘nothing’.
So yes, perhaps our students could access information about Magnetism, Trees and Forests, The Cultural Revolution or Child Labour on their own. But would they? If we took away this content within the classroom, our students would not necessarily be exposed to a wide range of ideas and topics. They would not necessarily have the opportunity for rich dialogue and debate about these issues. They would not necessarily push themselves to access information about history: past human failure and success. They would not necessarily have the opportunity to join the culture of shared experience. Our students would not necessarily learn to discriminate and scrutinize the information they gather.
Teaching skills is certainly important. But, despite Google – I use it often, don’t get me wrong – it is still essential we teach content knowledge. The skills and knowledge of our curriculum connect and intertwine perhaps more than we realize. We may be able to ‘Google’ information, but we can’t replace the classroom setting for the opportunities to interact, dialogue and explore.