Google Makes Life Too Easy

I Bet You Can’t

Did your parents ever play this game with you? They would say “I bet you can’t… run to the refrigerator and get me a soda in less than 10 seconds.” You got into your best trackster stance and waited until they said On-Your-Mark-Get-Set-Go! Away you sprinted to the fridge while they pretended to count.

Almost every kid has done this… and if you didn’t learn it from your parents, then chances are good an older brother or sister tried it out on you. It probably worked a few times, maybe more, until you wised up and said something like “Go get your own soda!”

In the deepest corners of the human psyche: We all seek to have our own needs met.

If we can do it at the expense of a gullible sibling, we are likely to give it a try. Makes our own life easier.

Remember ChaCha?

Battle Bots: Flip vs. Galaxy
Battle Bots: Flip vs. Galaxy

Before Google there was ChaCha. [Or at least in my memory, it was before Google/before Yahoo even.] Cell phones were luggable and connected across local neighborhoods not global worldscapes. They were a privilege not an entitlement and definitely not a joined-at-the-hip necessity.

Most people used cell phones for making phone calls. [Imagine that… if you can.] Text messaging was novel. Too many parents got burned by huge bills because their kids went over the allotted SMS quotas… usually in the first few days of the month. [How could the single letter K or even LOL count as a full text message?] I remember feeling stunned to learn that my teenage daughters could send upwards of 10k texts a month.

They are the ones who introduced me to ChaCha! Casual dinner conversation would invariably result in questions that no one could answer and within minutes, some good soul on the other end of the text message would reply from ChaCha with an answer. Simply amazing!

It took me a long time to get used to the idea of using internet to find information. I grew up in the era of brick-and-mortar public libraries with vast sets of monstrous encyclopedias that you could only access with the proper permission during the appropriate library hours. I remember begging my parents to buy the books so we could do homework at home.

How far we have come in the age of technological advancement! Internet has profoundly impacted everything from the way we live and learn to the ways we do business and understand the world. It has made our lives easier… maybe too easy.

Students. Need. More. Grit.

So far this summer, I have taught six robotics camps to a total of 50+ kids from five different schools ranging in age from grade 3 to grade 8. Given the variations in age/ability/location, I just assumed that there would be some kids who had mental toughness and grit to figure stuff out. Robotics is fun but it’s not always easy. [Well… you know what happens when we assume… ]  I was wrong.

Students need more grit. I ask myself why they don’t have it and the answer smacks me head-on before I even get the thought formed in my brain: Mr. Google [or Ms. Yahoo depending on who is your favorite search engine.]

These kids went home at the end of our days saying “I’m going to Google or YouTube the solution and then I’ll fix my robot tomorrow.” They would come back frustrated the next day because Mr. Google didn’t know how to fix their robot and no one had posted a similar video on YouTube. My response was arguably not what they wanted to hear: Let’s start from the beginning.

I have been focused on this character trait of grit for a while now but I continue to be surprised and astounded by how little mental stamina middle school students have these days. It makes me nervous for their future… and my future… because eventually they will be in charge of the world when I am old and gray.

Google Makes Life Too Easy

Mr. Google has made sure that almost any answer is available in two clicks or less. Kids have all the information they could ever want at the touch of an app. [Contrast that with the fact that most kids cannot type on a keyboard or create a document… because they only use smartphones and tablets these days.] They don’t have to work hard to find answers. And they’re pretty sure they know everything.

What they don’t know how to do is use that information… to fully answer a question… to construct a meaningful opinion… to solve a problem. All the information in the world cannot teach them critical thinking, logical thought processes or give them grit enough to figure things out.

That’s the power of design thinking. That’s the secret sauce behind the whole Never Summer mission:

To reach the child who hungers for purpose
In #PivotTheModel design school learning.

We’re working hard to create learning opportunities for students and teachers that give grit and teach design thinking. More on the way!