This post is largely an opportunity for me to think aloud as I try to decide how I feel about what happened during math class today. Right now, the students are learning about geometry, and they’re creating various nets. My student teacher introduced this concept earlier this week, and before we work on constructing nets for our Teapot Project next week, she had a challenge for the students today.
While groups of students quickly started using various tools as they began this challenge, I found it interesting that a couple of groups got devices and started Googling different types of nets. They were looking at the images of them, and using these images to construct their own.
I’ll admit that I was initially tempted to tell them to put the devices away, but I resisted the urge. Why?
- I thought about the tweet that I’ve seen numerous times questioning that if an answer is “Googleable,” is the question the best one to ask? (I’m paraphrasing here.)
- Even if the students copied the net, would they actually meet the challenge? (It was with this question in mind that I went over to talk to the different groups.)
These conversations were incredibly interesting. These students,
- explained how they knew their chosen net could be assembled to create their chosen prism or pyramid.
- explained how they measured the sides and the angles to ensure that the measurements were correct.
- explained how they knew the correct measurements in the first place.
- explained why their prism or pyramid was the best one to use for this task.
Here is just one of many videos that I took today (my iPad ran out of storage space, so I’m sorry that the video ended so abruptly) that shows that the this activity was about way more than just creating a net, so does it matter if the students consulted Google?
I’m starting to really believe that it doesn’t matter, but then I keep on thinking about Grade 6 and EQAO. If this was an EQAO question, students would have had to draw the net without using the Internet.
- They could have looked at the three-dimensional figures on the math cart though.
- They could have used trial and error.
- They could have started with the shapes that they knew and thought their way through the process.
I wonder if future net building activities, like next week’s Teapot Project, will help students use these other options instead of the Internet. I wonder what would happen if I asked these students that looked online what strategy they would use if I said that they couldn’t use the Internet. I wonder if they could talk through for me how to create the net without using a resource. So much to think about! What would you do? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!
Great question and so etching I have been thinking a lot about lately as I shift to more online content. There is two parts to is. The first is a continual problem with our educational system; why ask a question that is googable, which many of the eqao questions are. What thinking is being done?
However, The more I think about it, why take the option away. There is a lot of learning when you google. You have to distinguish right information from wrong, you have to read, you have to know what to search for (asking questions) you have to infer and then extrapolate the information to what you are doing. Just because you google it doesn’t mean you understand but because your students did means that they do understand and internalize the information. I bet you could ask the students who did google it to draw a net and they would be able to. Why should we hinder students from using such a powerful tool. Would we remove books for our library? I think not. Like I said this has been a topic I have been thinking about lately. There is such a rich task in these searches and which the changing times we also need to change.
Thanks for the comment, Jonathan! The truth is that when I don’t know something, I tend to Google it as well. I actually did just that when figuring out how to make certain nets of my own. But even with Google, I had to figure out my own measurements. I needed to be able to create the correct angles. I still needed to apply what I found to the problem itself, and the students today had to do this as well.
When my student teacher called the students back today for a Math Congress, it was amazing to hear them talking about the problems they faced with measurements, and how they resolved them. They also spoke about how they created various nets, and why they made the choices that they did. This activity really was about more than just making nets, so does it matter that some of them used Google to see some images that might assist them?
I absolutely agree with you that our tasks need to be rich enough that the answer cannot just be found through Google. Maybe today reminded me of this most of all. I really appreciate you chiming in on this discussion!