This may seem as backward and antiquated as you can imagine, but the Stone Ridge MS asks students to NOT use google to search for homework or activities and projects for school. Before anyone starts a campaign against our Neanderthal-like thinking, let’s start with some background.
- Stone Ridge has one of he most comprehensive and well thought out collections of resources accessible on the internal side of our website. It would be nice if this came free, but we believe that the companies and people who put these resources together and vet them, should be paid for their hard work.
- We believe that all students should give credit to the authors and owners of website or resources where we get our information from. We should also work had to use proper citations when using various resources – many of these resources make it easier to cite and reference their material.
- Even when safe search is turned on in student browsers (by default), there is still a possibility that inappropriate content, be it in words or maybe even worse, images or video, can still make it’s way onto a student’s screen.
- Both the Library and the Ed Tech team do ongoing work and present activities regarding online safety, citizenship and using online resources in an effective way.
- In the summer, SR requires an hour-and-a-half MS student/Parent Orientation session that introduces MS students and families to the technology program. Students also receive their 2 in 1 devices at that time and are instructed on how to use these devices, as well as discuss the Responsible Use Policy that goes over the dos and don’ts when using school-owned laptops and using the school network. In this orientation, we let families know that we ask them not to use google search at school, but they can decide if they will allow their girls to use google (or other open ended search engines) when at home or in their care.
So, with all of that information, does it make sense to try to enforce this rule, even though everyone and their grandmother use google outside of the classroom setting? We at Stone Ridge still say yes. Let us explain our thinking on this. It’s complicated.
First, the art or skill of deciphering whether or not a website you find using google search is unbiased, without agenda, and accurate takes a long time and even adults have a problem with this – There are stories that teachers actually have listed this website – https://www.allaboutexplorers.com/explorers/ as an actual resource that their students used for their research. Take a look at the link. It looks good and the explorers names are spelled correctly. Take a gander at Christopher Columbus bio and you’ll immediately see that it’s a hoax. In actuality, it’s a website that was made for teachers to TEACH students how to spot fake or inaccurate websites. It even has lessons or activities that show you how to use allabouteplorers.com the right way!
Secondly, during student’s middle school years, they work hard to follow rules and do what their teachers ask of them, but it’s also a time when they begin to exert their independence and sometimes do the opposite of what’s asked of them in the classroom. Outside the classroom, families, siblings, friends type things to find in google all the time. For the most part, this process is useful and mostly harmless. We’re certain that as a parent you and your child(ren) have come across google search queries that are not exactly what you had in mind and on a regular basis, you’ll see things that okay for your eyes to see, but maybe something that would be hard to explain to your younger ones. In the worst cases, images or words or even videos might pop up that would take a long long time for you “unexplain.”
Finally, a google search that brings up a youtube video can be even more problematic. It’s not necessarily the video that google points you to (it CAN also be the video), but it’s the comments or suggested videos that show up all around the edges of a youtube video that can cause scars for life! Some of the most offensive comment threads happen in these areas of the web. It’s generally a good idea to keep our middle schoolers eyes away from these spaces.
During their time in the middle school, students learn how to evaluate websites and how to use key words to have more effective web searches. Between our MS Librarian and the ed tech team we work to expose them to accurate and usable websites, as well as coach them to use our amazing virtual resources. By the time they reach the 8th grade, we begin to loosen the “no google search” reigns a bit and even allow them to use google towards the end of the school year because once in high school, their teachers will expect them to make smart choices when researching online AND their grades will be impacted if they make bad reference and resource choices.
Whew! That was a lot of words used to explain something that we think makes a lot of age and developmentally-appropriate sense. We hope it makes sense to you, as well.