24 September 2009

You+Google=Learning





I just finished an article from the Huffington Post (you can read it here that was discussing whether or not Google was/is a miracle or a death sentence for news writers.

I love Google, I think its a fantastic device (I even think the non-Google search engines are pretty great) and I'm sure that I do not want to go back to pre-Google days where I had to read information out of an out-dated encyclopedia.

However, this new search engine that is being invented Wolfrom|Alpha. Granted, I'm not completely familiar with how this new device is designed to work but I have been told that it will give you everything you need to know about a topic immediately, no search results to filter through. Well my first question is: Isn't that what Wikipedia is for? And second: Isn't part of the joy of getting a question answered is getting to the answer, sometimes you need to work for it a little right?

One of the fundamental skills that I learned while I was in school was how to research. I learned both the old and new fashioned way, I did have to use dusty reference books from the library to write several papers, but teachers do not assign research papers to teach us the information, they assign it to teach us a process. That is what research and answering a question is, its a process, and a program as sophisticated as Wolfrom|Alpha is determined to be will remove all of the process from the answer.

Learning to move through a process and to filter information is not so that you can research obscure facts later in life. It is to learn how to use your brain in the real world. Problem solving cannot be done in the world if you have never learned how to use your brain before. I'm worried that entities that immediately deliver information without any thought will remove chances to learn really important life skills.

Perhaps I will need to research this new device and its intended uses further.



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