Monthly Archives: February 2017

What can’t you ask Siri?

I can remember going to the library if I needed to know something.  We didn’t have Siri.

I can remember taking out a pad of paper to divide 7843 by 46.  We didn’t have Siri.

I can remember looking words up in a dictionary or thesaurus.  We didn’t have Siri.

I can remember waiting until the hour to hear the weather for the day.  We didn’t have Siri.

I can remember getting the newspaper off the front stoop in the morning.  We didn’t have Siri.

I used to know all my friends’ phone numbers.  We didn’t have Siri.

I can remember looking things up in an encyclopedia.  We didn’t have Siri.

I can remember feeling frustrated if I couldn’t remember the capital of Peru.  We didn’t have Siri.

Our students are growing up with Siri.  So much knowledge is at their fingertips, or rather in their phone.  You don’t even have to type to talk to Siri.  We hear all the time that education in the 21st century needs to change.  We know that education can no longer just be about the transmissions of facts.  We have Siri for that.  So what can’t Siri do?  Maybe that helps us to define what our students need to learn.

Siri can’t

  • solve problems,
  • think critically,
  • collaborate,
  • offer an alternative point of view,
  • compare and contrast,
  • add emotion to thinking,
  • create,
  • evaluate,
  • critically synthesize,
  • enjoy,
  • depict beauty and heartache,
  • find new problems to solve,
  • be a good citizen,
  • use examples from history to shape the future,
  • argue or debate,
  • define and defend an argument,
  • innovate

Perhaps we need to use Siri for some of the factual stuff so that our students can concentrate on these higher order thinking skills.  Instead of fighting against Siri, can we bring her into the fold?

That is not to say that I don’t believe that students should have some base knowledge.  It is inefficient to not have the most important facts of a discipline at your fingertips.  Students do need to be able to make mental math calculations, know the capital of Canada (if they live there or close by), know the parts of a cell to study biology, know how to read and construct a piece of writing for a variety of audiences and purposes.  A base knowledge of the “stuff” is important in being able to access the higher order thinking skills.

But now that we have Siri (and whoever or whatever her successor will be; and there will be one, perhaps before I finish typing this blog), the importance and the role we give to knowing the facts, has to change.  We have managed to embrace Siri in so many other facets of our lives: do you wait to the hour to know the weather forecast; do you look up trivia (or ask Siri) when out with friends: do you still memorize phone numbers?

It is hard to change how we think of education.  It is hard to believe that students will grow up to be just as successful as we are, without having the same educational experience that we did.  But my life with Siri is very much different than my life before her.  Our students will never know a life without Siri.  Why do we keep making them learn the stuff that they could just ask Siri?  Why don’t we free up their cognitive energy to solve problems, create, innovate, analyze, evaluate, collaborate….

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