Google at school: “the educational potential of Internet tools is immense”

France must open up its education system to the realities of the digital world, an approach likely to make a lasting and positive change in the daily lives of teachers and students, in high school in particular. It is not only a question of guiding them towards the proper use of the Internet and digital tools, but of going further, of integrating these tools into the way of teaching, of creating this new pedagogy that Michel Serres has repeatedly called for his wishes. In this perspective, one can conceive of an evolution of the lecture course towards a two-step formula, derived from the model designed decades ago already in the business schools Americans.

Its principle is based on the prior involvement of the students in the subject of the course, so that the course itself becomes a moment of ordering and summarizing what the students have acquired by themselves. The classic scheme of the direct transmission of new knowledge by the teacher is then partly erased in favor of increased participation by each student. For them there is a progressive and stimulating appropriation of knowledge, and for the teacher, a new and rewarding in-depth experience.

The example of the Economics course

All subjects – and in particular the exact sciences – are not susceptible to the application of this method, which rather concern areas such as Philosophy, Literature, History or Economics. Its pedagogical potential can be highlighted from an example, the simulation of an Economics course in high school. At some point, the teacher of this subject lets his students know that the next lesson will focus on a topical issue, such as the financing of a start-up, the activity of investment funds or the ECB action.

Several groups of five or six students are formed, and it is up to them to start together, at their own pace, research work on the subject. They are asked to carry out these searches on Google, in French and for those who can, in English. These groups will have to designate spokespersons, responsible for presenting to the whole class the approaches to the subject that will have marked them the most, as well as the names of the sites concerned.

Some of the students’ discoveries could prove to be particularly interesting, such as the refusal of banks to finance start-ups, the role of funds for the recycling of savings or that of the ECB in monetary creation. One can imagine the work of preparation and animation of the teacher, responsible for evaluating the findings of his students, to make them observe the convergences and divergences of points of view, to make them reflect on the importance of the sources and the profile authors. We can also imagine the new motivation of students discovering the unexpected richness of the Internet and the relativity of knowledge.

Internet, an egalitarian tool

Many critics denounce, it is true, the addiction of young people to social networks and the general abandonment of reading. We must however see in counterpoint the immense educational potential of the tools of the Net, of Google in particular.

Thus, for the first time in the history of the world, all of human knowledge is made available to the greatest number. Culture, know-how, works of art, learning tools are accessible everywhere, at any time, free or almost, which makes the Internet a potentially considerable contributor to the reduction of inequalities. It is to our teachers that it belongs to the old new generations to the reasoned use of digital tools, a mission of civilization one could say.

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Alain Lemasson, former banker and founder of infofi2000.com

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