The Google Effect


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Most of us, if not all of us, know what Google is. For most of us, it comes embedded as a search bar in every window of our internet browser. If not, we are aware of what its function is: An online search engine for those seeking information off the internet. It has become so ubiquitous as to merit its own verb, “to Google” something. With a wealth of information just a click away, I have often wondered how this affected my memory. I no longer held on to concrete facts, choosing instead to remember vague details, knowing that Google would fill in the blanks. It seems now that I was not alone.

Imagine my surprise when I saw these articles in the International Business Times, Wired, and the Telegraph.

Science has now shown us that how we remember information has changed. As technology has an ever increasing grip on our lives, we have integrated it into our very biological structure. In a ground-breaking study, published in Science Magazine, it has been shown that we commit less to memory, and focus more now on the process of finding information.

How does this revolutionary change in human memory processes affect how we conduct education? In an article on the issue in eCampus news, Betsy Sparrow, one of the lead researchers on the project, noted that with this information, we could change how we approach education in the age of search engines. The article stated that professionals could become less concerned with the memorization of facts, and could then dedicate more time to comprehension of complex ideas and larger issues of understanding.

One also has to consider access to such technologies. Not everyone, despite the widespread reach of the internet, has a smart phone or reliable access to a computer, let alone the internet. It would be interesting to see if these individuals, who are living somewhat on the fringe of what we consider modern technology, show the same shift in learning. Would their minds work the same as those who are saturated with infomania?

If the Google Effect truly exists, where does this leave language learning? There is a wealth of translation services for free online (with Google Translate, not surprisingly, an option), as well as free language learning services, but how do you learn a language? There has to be a serious commitment to learning the vocabulary. Without commitment to memory of all the words essential to communication, how does the language serve its purpose? Technology is definitely having an impact on how we educate in the world, especially in the area of language learning, so it will be interesting to see how this new research is taken into consideration with the development of curricula and assessments over time.

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