Why do I need a teacher when I’ve got Google? The essential guide to the big issues for every twenty- first century teacher by I. Gilbert

Posted: July 23, 2012 by kilickay in 2011, CALL, exam, school

The book entitled ‘Why do I need a teacher when I’ve got Google?’ includes discrete chapters focusing on questions and issues on education, which the author, Ian Gilbert considers pivotal in today’s twenty-first education. Through the book, the author provides readers, especially teachers, with challenging and thought-provoking questions. The author starts the first chapter through a quotation from Albert Einstein

“We can’t solve the problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.

We can adapt this famous quotation to education, which might be the following:

We cannot teach students by using the same kind of materials and techniques that we used when we were students.

For long years, students have been dependent on their teachers for information to be passed on them, and especially, it is especially true for students in Turkey, though it changes from one country to another. As stated by Gilbert (2011, pp. 23-24),

For years, teachers have been the primary source of information in the classroom, backed up by textbooks that have been jealously guarded and kept locked in a cupboard or guarded by Conan the Librarian. But now, within a few years, the primary source will be a piece of technology children put in their pockets.

Considering the quotation provided above, it can be put forward that language teachers are no longer the only input providers to language learners, and the classrooms, likewise, are no longer the only place where language learners are exposed to target language. When I look back upon my secondary and high school years (1980s and 1990s), I can easily remember, as some might do, that the sole opportunity for us to practice English was the language classroom and our English teacher. We were having difficulty in finding authentic materials such as cassettes and short stories, which were too expensive to buy. Our teacher was providing photocopies of several stories which were accompanied by several comprehension and multiple-choice questions. We could hardly practice pronunciation and listening skills. We were dealing with paperback dictionaries to look up unknown words and try to understand their meanings in one or two sentences provided.

Today, as stated by Gilbert (2011), learners as well as students live in a digital world where they can instantly search for specific information instantly in a huge amount of websites wherever they are, be it on a bus, or in their bedroom, not just their classrooms. From language learning perspective, today’s leaners have a huge digital world in their hands. They can easily access electronic dictionaries such as Online Macmillan Dictionary (http://www.macmillandictionary.com/), and Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (online or CD/DVD version) (http://www.ldoceonline.com/). Whenever they need to practice listening skills, they do not have to depend on cassettes which provide low quality, but search Google or YouTube to find authentic videos from famous movies (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pGWU4QhJ4L8), or videos created for language purposes (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vsVxZPUJHN8). When they need help, they can search Google or they just google, and find a website that may offer help (http://www.eslcafe.com/students/).

So, there comes the question: ‘Why do I need a teacher when I’ve got Google?’ As suggested by the author of the book, the answer depends on your role as a teacher. To the author, the role of today’s and the next century’s teacher is to help students how to find information on the net or the library, how to be sure that that information is accurate, what to do that information, and how to be creative with it. More importantly, the teacher’s role is to probe students’ critical thinking skills and increase their curiosity.

Of course, Gilbert offers more than this in the book. I have just touched upon the core issue that the author deals with. I suggest the readers go through this book for more discussions on issues such as the real of point of school and exams.

Gilbert, I. (2011). Why do I need a teacher when I’ve got Google? The essential guide to the big issues for
every twenty- first century teacher. New York, NY: Routledge.

  1. sakayoglu says:

    This question is always posed at conferences… Why do we need teachers if students can access to Google or could the teachers be replaced with computers? Of course we need teachers… However, teachers should also be media-literate if they want to reach their students. Instead of using the traditional ways of communication, teachers should also learn how to use 21st century ICT tools. Otherwise, there will be a huge gap between teachers and students.

    • kilickay says:

      I totally agree with you. Teachers should be knowledgeable about ICT tools and actively use them. In this way, they can show students how to benefit from the Internet and teach students that the Internet is not a place to ‘copy and paste’ . Research shows that students are, generally speaking, benefit from the tools available on the Internet such as Facebook and Blogs. However, they depend on these for communication and other things, but not for educational purposes. Maybe they are not aware of their educational potential.

      Our teachers are used to teaching in ‘mother robin’ fashion. In other words, we feed each and every information into students without providing any opportunity to search and validate all this information. Likewise, students are also used to this kind of teaching. They do not complain about it since they learn anything from their teacher (if they can) without showing any intellectual labor.

  2. Anne Fox says:

    Totally agree with you for most school subjects but I think that language learning is a bit different as it is not for the most part information-based but skills-based. As digital tools have moved from being ‘information dumps’ to communication and connection channels channels they have become of much greater potential use to language learning. The common thread throughout all of this is the teacher as facilitator, motivator and guide.

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