I Google big words

Ok, so I’m going to try to bridge (hopefully not the collapsed Tacoma Narrows Bridge that we saw an image of in class) networked learning and mindfulness for this coming week’s post theme.  I found technology to be such an interesting part of class this week.  I was noticing in class how the computer was helping me to better understand discussions in class.  In seeing that the topic for the week is mindfulness in teaching and learning, I first googled the definition of mindfulness in case I wanted to use it for this post.  Being that mindfulness focuses on the present moment, I am debating if having google is keeping me present or distracting me from class.  I was able to look up several words to better understand class conversations: ubiquitous, diatribe, what years millennials were born in, and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge obviously.  I used to hear words in class that I didn’t understand, and I would have to be a little confused in the moment and look it up later.  Now that I can look up that information in the moment, it may be a small distraction, but it can actually keep me more present in the conversation.  Remaining present in the moment can be such a huge part of education because being distracted and looking up information unrelated to class hinders education, as has been discussed in detail thus far.


While watching the second Michael Wesch video in class, I decided to google what the definition for learning actually is: “the acquisition of knowledge or skills through experience, study, or by being taught.”  I found it fascinating that “being taught” is the last on that list while “experience” comes first.  How much do we actually experience if we just move through life mindlessly?  The answer according to Ellen Langer (Langer_Mindful_Learning+intro+and+chap+one (1)) is not much for Little Red Riding Hood.  Mindfulness itself is a necessary part of learning so that we can experience life!  When I think about each of these forms of learning, experience seems to be the most first hand.  When I think of study, I imagine someone reading a book and not fully experiencing.  “Being taught” (phrased in the passive voice) may remove that even farther as the activity falls on the teacher and the student is just the recipient.  Both Michael Wesch and Ken Robinson speak about how teachers must fully engage students’ individuality, so “being taught” to me just doesn’t sound as engaging as we hope learning to be.


It would seem that similar to the curiosity that children have to learn and explore things (again concepts touched on my Michael Wesch and Ken Robinson), my curiosity to find information is something that can be helpful for learning.  Instead of stifling my curiosity to learn by just focusing on the conversation at hand, I was able to explore some concepts that I was curious about.  One of the myths of learning that Ellen Langer distinguished was that paying attention meant focusing on one thing at a time.  I will agree that this is a myth because by my ability to seek out more information (thank you google!) mid-conversation, I learned something new.  So after all of this debate and engaging in the week’s learning materials, my appraisal of my “distraction” during class is that googling unknown words actually helped me stay on topic and learn better.  What do you think?

11 thoughts on “I Google big words”

  1. I think you’ve got it! Using your computer or phone to look up a word gives you the opportunity to follow and participate in the discussion at a richer level. Yes, you could write down the unfamiliar words and look them up later, but unless you have amazing recall you’ll probably get more out of the discussion by finding out / discovering / learning what those words mean while the context is still immediate and relevant. I’m suspicious of the “being taught” component of the definition of learning. I think you’re right about the passive voice. Curiosity motivated by mindful attention seems to more aptly characterize the process.

  2. I google both big and small words!! Ever since I had to learn English, I have had to look up words constantly! English is indeed a crazy language with words pronounced, unlike they are spelled. In my native language, every word looks exactly as it sounds and even French too, but I must be biased, since I grew up with those languages. But since I got into Virginia Tech and for that matter America, I am always looking up word pronunciations and meanings, I simply can’t make out most words unless I really think about them. I am forever trapped in ‘mindful learning’ in this country…lol. I am glad you look up words too.

  3. I think it is not a bad idea to try to look up concepts and engage in the talking at the same time. Actually, I am the same if I run into big words in class, I will try to Google them right away. I feel it is a waste of time if I didn’t know the important concept that people were discussing, and just pretended to be totally engaged, and actually wondered about the meaning a lot, which stopped me from listening unconsciously. I would rather look it up quickly and come back to the conversation with better understanding. Sometimes, the interpretation on line actually inspired me to think deeply. The learning way that most suitable for everyone themselves should be the right way, and that is the true meaning of mindful learning in my mind.

  4. Your post is making me think about last week’s discussion about no-technology policies in the classroom. While for some students, at least, [*raises hand*] tech can be a distraction (at least some of the time) I think that your post is gesturing at a need for us to reevaluate that intuition. For whom is technology a distraction, when, and why? If in looking for answers to those questions we find that technology is *beneficial* for at least some of the students (and if used differently perhaps more than we would think), then maybe we’ve been missing important questions:

    Which students are harmed when we institute no tech policies?
    What bells, hoops, and whistles do students have to jump through to gain access to a medium that helps them be successful in the classroom?
    Why do we make students jump through those hoops in the first place?

  5. Thanks for your post, it provides a new way of thinking about technology in the classroom. I often find myself assuming that any technology is a distraction– to the point that I will close my computer during class whenever it is not needed for a class activity– to eliminate the distraction. But, as you mention, sometimes there are words, concepts, or references made in a class that I do not understand, and I can’t say I’ve ever thought to Google it during class time. Sure, I might tell myself that I will look it up later, but 9/10 times I will forget. This post made me realize that we should use our resources at hand, especially if it will help us understand more and be more engaged in class. It takes 2 seconds to Google something– why not take advantage of this ability to learn something new?

  6. This is a great example of someone using creative thinking. I am diagnosed with ADD, so finding strategic uses for my moments of distraction is extremely useful.

  7. Great post! I Google small words too!! I totally agree that you looking up words/facts/things on your “knowledge box” is keeping you engaged in the class. In fact, there were several occasions last week when I had to look up words to follow along in the conversation! Here’s the definition of the word “opine” http://www.dictionary.com/browse/opine

    Furthermore, I think it’s great that you take the initiative to look these words up if you don’t know them. Some people might just let them slide and leave them as “blanks” in the conversation, and that’s no fun.

  8. I think that there is a big difference between being on the internet and surfing Facebook and being on the internet and using Google to look up terms you might not know or extra information about a certain topic. To me using Google to do searching is just another form of learning and may help students. If you’re able to use the internet for ‘good’ during a class rather than for ‘bad’ I think that it can be extremely useful just as you found out. As the quote you provided said learning is: “the acquisition of knowledge or skills through experience,…”. To me using the internet to look up extra details is form of experience and one that sounds like works well for you.

  9. Thank you all for these wonderful replies! It is helping me to see learning in yet another way, as my post seems to be doing for many of you also. I am also one of those people that won’t remember to look up a word later, so doing it in the moment is just so much more effective. I hadn’t even thought about how Google could help those who don’t have English as a first language. English is my first language, and I still have to look up words in the classroom. Maybe this is cause to rethink the policy that some have for no technology in class.

    This exchange of ideas is also giving me much more confidence in the learning that can come from blogging!

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