Saturday, March 6, 2010

Our Brains Think Differently

Just the other day I was writing an email and stumbled across the spelling of the word "alley."  I couldn't remember if the word was spelled ally or alley.  I looked up and asked my students.  The response was brilliant.  Here's how the conversation went.

Me:  "How do you spell alley?"
Student:  "Google it and then click on images, see what comes up."

I marveled at this brilliant response.  My brain is geared to print.  I grew up with dictionary pages and guide words.  Using google to look up unknown spellings of words is not new to me and or google searches of webpages are my normal course of action when unknown spellings arise.   After all, I'm proficient when it comes to internet searches.  But images?  This brought about a whole new understanding to how the teenage brain thinks differently than mine. 

Here's a view of what comes up had I looked up the word alley:

Here's what comes up when I click google images:
Quite a different beast I'd say.  Upon second review of this image search, I wondered how easy it might be for a teenager to get side tracked by the barrage of scantily clad photographs of women.  What surprised me was that I didn't even remember these images popping up when I was looking up the spelling of the word "alley."  To my surprise, when I did this activity for the first time, my eyes traveled directly to the image of a street alley and I went right back to my email.  Would a teenager do the same?

Regardless of the response, our brains think differently and my job is to teach the teenage brain not the adult brain.  Part of that teaching must involve knowledge of how to handle images like the above popping up when a student completes an image search because handle them they must.  Understanding what is appropriate to view and what isn't is just as important these days as spelling the word "alley."  A recent incident occurring during a news interview involving a bank employee caught on camera as he checked out pictures of naked women on his computer only emphasizes this point.  

Many adults are under the impression that students are proficient in the electronic world.  Though these students may be more proficient than most teachers, the truth of the matter is that students aren't as proficient as we may think.  The internet is a whole new ball game when it comes to information.  As teachers, we need to guide students towards the development of techniques that not only determine the credibility of information found but to determine whether or not sites are appropriate to visit  based on domain names or URLs.  We know they won't search the same way we do.  The teenage brain is truly a different beast.

Finally, more information related to teaching internet search can be found on Finding Dulcinea website and the Finding Dulcinea blog.

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