Sadly, school wouldn’t be school without Google. Every day, students log in to Chromebooks, using their Google accounts, of course. The students then refresh their screens, checking for assignments or announcements in Google Classroom, which can be viewed through their “feed.” Students also have applications—Search, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides—to complete work that was assigned. Wow, Google, you could take over the class!
This is the digital routine in my high school and many more. We rely on this multi-billion-dollar search engine daily; after all, where else could we check for facts or examples of essays? However, while Google offers us many educational benefits, it also poses serious threats. Namely, the roles of teachers could change radically if assignments and instruction are more readily accessible online. I believe the gradual switch from classroom to online instruction negatively affects students’ holistic learning experience. Google, the omnipotent search engine robot, can’t provide the human interaction between teachers and students, nor can it provide the inspiration and creativity that students require.
It’s difficult to disregard a massive company like Google. Google makes its presence known in multiple locations all over the world—North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia Pacific, Africa, and the Middle East. Last year, Google Classroom had 70 million users, 20 million more than the previous two years. According to CNBC News, at the end of 2015, Chromebooks, the laptops that run Chrome OS—the operating system designed by Google—made up a whopping 4.4 million of the 8.9 million devices K-12 school districts purchased. To put this in other terms, 30,000 new Chromebooks are introduced in schools every day. Google has also quickly edged out its competitors, Apple and Microsoft, in the education market.
Even though some people may argue that looking to Google for answers is no different than going to the library, Google is no longer just a search engine. The Google education apps diminish the value of teachers and belittle their professions.
Google has brought a lot to the table of learning, but it can never provide the human touch, which is critical when guiding and mentoring students. “The Evolving Role of the Teacher,” an article on hundrED.org, states, “The teacher is needed to assist and inspire their students, helping them to come to terms with what they are passionate about, discover what goals they want to achieve, and help them realize those aspirations.”
An influential teacher, a dose of encouragement: these factors can dramatically impact a person’s future and choices. That is why the relationship between a teacher and student often continues long after school ends, especially with those remarkable teachers who remain in the memories of students for life.
My fear is that the jobs of teachers could be reconstructed with instruction easily available online. The art of teaching would be lost to a facilitator or technology expert. Two articles—“The Evolving Role of the Teacher” from hundrED.org and “The Deconstruction of the K-12 Teacher” by Michael Godsey—agree that the role of an educator is shifting from a teacher of information to a facilitator of information. Traditionally, knowledge was passed from books to instructors, then disseminated through a lesson plan that students could absorb. No more, all thanks to Google.
Google Drive acts as a supporter for communicating classwork online. The blue SHARE button on a Google document enables students to make comments and suggestions on one another’s work and even allows them to simultaneously work on the same document. But engaging with others verbally and socially, not digitally, is what equips children with the interpersonal skills they need in the real world.
A study from Reading Horizons, an education journal, found that social interaction improved students’ learning by enhancing their knowledge of literacy, teaching, critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Without possessing basic problem-solving skills—necessary in personal and professional lives—people will also lack leadership skills, creative and analytical thinking, and decision-making skills.
We can’t rely on Google as an all-powerful god. Its many programs and applications designed for the classroom should be used as an accessory to enhance students’ learning, not a crutch. I’m not suggesting that we should completely detox ourselves from using Google, as I, too, sit here guiltily, using Google to find research to validate my argument. What I believe, however, is that Google should not replace teachers. It can serve as the number one source used to find answers to our millions of questions, handle our emails, and even help us translate languages—but please don’t let Google take over our schools. We don’t need robots in the front of our classrooms. Virtual education can’t replace real voices, real brains, and true hearts.