A Learning Moment, courtesy of Google

My 11th graders and I have played Googleaday together once or twice in the past. (I call it “Google Whack” but I know that is a misnomer). In response to an engaging question, they get out their smart phones get their search on. They go solo or gather in groups to find faster than the next kid. Students race for knowledge, a wonderful for a teacher to see (and yes, it is also a race of data plans and bandwidth, hardware and software). The first respondent who raises his/her hand, is recognized and gives the correct answer (AND the method of the search) wins.

It’s a game, and there’s prizes.
Today’s first question was a doozy.
I put this up, and expressed marvel when 4, 5, 6 hands went up and no right answers came up. I even said, “Gee, that seems odd–it says came from behind to win the US Open in 2000 to beat who. How hard can that be?”

And even with the hint “U of Kansas” and the clue “M– G–” , no one got it.

A minute more went by, and more failed guesses (“Ernie Els!” Miguel Angel Jiminez!”).

To their credit, my students persisted in their search; but they were persisting in error.

Finally a malre student raised his voice: “It’s not asking about the Open! It’s four months before the Open!”  And we all sighed at his perspicacity, marveled by his careful reading. We had misread the question, the most basic of tasks.

As their teacher, I had reinforced a lazy reading by expressing amazement at their delay. I was the embodiment of an unreliable, if experienced, authority. I had biased their inquiry down blind allies. And this amazing young man, by paying attention to details, had totally reframed our queries and put us on the right path. We were corrected and (we hope) wiser Google Whackers.

I’d like to thank that student, and also Google, for providing such a moment of self-reflection and meta-cognition.
SPOILER ALERT Below I give the solution to today’s difficult Googleaday. Stop reading now if you would prefer working it out yourself.

Since no one got it in school, I spent the better part of a half hour tonight tracking it down on my own, determined to whack that fact, and also distractingly learning about Tiger Woods’ unprecedented career.
It was not easy to find the PGA tour victories that year, but with persistence and multiple tabs open, I succeeded. 
My students and I will do this in teams again. If only they could be on Google+, we could be doing badges and certificates and challenging others and in short gamifiying Google.

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