Words Matter | Googleable


Definition:   being able to find information about something by using the search engine Google.

questions3smallFor example, and from the video:  When was Custer’s last stand?

That’s a Googleable question.  Questions that are “googleable” can be answered by simply doing a Google search.   Ask a question, the student types it into Google and bingo – the answer.

Where do you stand with “googleable questions?”  Googleable assignments?  Appropriate, inappropriate, or it depends?

If it’s me, I want kids on Google.  All the time.  Here’s my thinking:

If a teacher only asks fact-based questions, and that’s as far as kids are asked to go, then I would think that’s not enough.  If it’s a question that provides information that is valuable in the larger context of developing an answer to a more challenging question, then I would think that would be appropriate.

With the explosion of ubiquitous technology in the hands of students that provide unlimited access to information, how questions are framed, and by whom, can contribute to a shift in the student learning experience.

How questions are asked set the stage for learning that is based in inquiry and critical and creative thought.

Here are two scenarios:

I might ask a group of science students to determine the methodologies for preventing the spread of Asian Carp into Lake Michigan.  That’s Googleable and the answer is a list.  Go to Google, find the strategies, put them in a list, and bingo, assignment completed.  That’s not enough.

But tweaking that question to ask students to determine the plan that would most likely result in stopping the Asian carp migration, and by requiring that the plan can only have two strategies, still requires the students to develop the list, but challenges them to select the strategies that most likely would work, and most importantly, justify why.

In this scenario, Google is used to answer the foundation questions that provide the raw information required to answer the essential question.  Getting to the larger question requires a synthesis of the information from the “Googleable questions.”

It’s also important to realize that answering Googleable questions can also help develop information literacy.  Students need to be able to locate information, cross-reference it, understand if it comes from a creditable source, and learn how to curate it, cite it and share it.

And I want kids to use Google in traditional classroom settings like lecture.  Fact-checking, or doing a “second screen” type of thing that engages them more than just taking notes.  As a teacher, could you develop “googleable instances” within a lecture that deepen content understanding, challenges them in a different way, perhaps create a shared resource on the topic, or something that adds value to the lecture experience?

Teachers have always asked kids “Googleable questions.”  Instead of Google it was the textbook or the lecture notes that were used as a source of information to answer the questions.  These types of questions have their place in learning.  And good teachers have always gone beyond the simple question and challenged learners on a different plane with a deeper question.  That’s part of what makes them good teachers.

Of course, the next step in all of this is to find ways to create a student learning experience where students ask their own questions and follow their own learning path, even through a course’s curriculum, and are encouraged to develop and answer questions of merit associated with their own learning passions, using all the tools and resources at their disposal.

Hat tip to Eric Hileman for the video in this post.


Additional resources and perspectives:

Doug Johnson | To Make it Google-proof, make it personal

Ewan McIntosh | Googleable or Non-Googleable?


  1. David-
    This is very much in my mind these days, as I work with teachers and students on building curiosity and creative skills. @apkohl pointed me toward the work of Hal Gregersen, which has this amazing video on Big Think: http://bigthink.com/users/hal-gregersen

    What we need to work on as a whole- is asking the right questions. One of the things Gregersen mentions in his video is a Peter Drucker quote:
    “Peter Drucker said “There’s nothing more dangerous than the right answer to the wrong question.”

    I can think of so many instances in school districts, and other bureaucracies where administrators work tirelessly finding the right answer to incorrect questions. Like those early adopters of iPads who bought thousands of them before there were apps to even support the learning that was supposed to take place. Or purchasing technology for “achievement” rather than seeing the greater goal of creativity.

    In a classroom setting- it’s the same. If we start with the right question- we can open a child’s mind to limitless possibilities, limitless artifacts, and numerous ways to reach the answer. This is destination I want us to reach.

    • Heidi Roycroft says:

      Dan Rezac, I am so right there with you on the “right questions” band wagon. I think the reason students are so bad at finding information on the web is because they don’t have enough concept development, vocabulary and a focus on what type of information they are looking for. Plus, there is still the problem with the authority of the sites they find. I’m a teacher-librarian at a middle school and I find students overwhelmed by the choices they get when they “google” something, especially when it is a teacher posed question/problem.

      One thing I don’t agree with you on though is that districts adopted iPads “before there were apps to even support the learning that was supposed to take place.” iPhone apps worked on the iPad from day one. Plus, if you are using the built in apps on the iPad and it’s access to the internet, you could do all sorts of meaningful learning and creating. I don’t get to use iPads at school, but I have one at home and get a lot out of the apps without having to go searching for new apps. Although I do try out a lot of apps, it is for my own professional development and –just in case my district changes it’s policy on iPads.

    • davidjakes says:

      Dan: I love that quote, and I have numerous examples of that myself-I think all of us in education would unfortunately. Your last statement is really well said. Thanks for reading and the comment.

      Heidi: I’m not that concerned about apps at all. I’ve said many times that the true affordance of any device like an iPad is to connect learners to each other, and to ideas and resources. If a device can do that, that should be enough, right?

  2. David Jakes, you’re my hero. You said this so very well, and so much better than I could have. I love your excellent example. I’m totally sharing this.

    • davidjakes says:

      Diane: I’ve clipped that to Evernote just to use against you at some time. 🙂 I’m getting frustrated somewhat by educators saying we must make things non-Googleable. Why would I ever restrict student access to the mightiest technology for learning ever created?

      Appreciate your comment, as well as sharing the post. Thanks!

  3. David, you so succinctly said what I as a teacher have been aiming for with my 5th graders for a long time. I ask them to create their own questions and try and help steer them away from being satisfied with simple factual questions to ones that explain processes. I’ve always thought of these as non-googleable questions, but I like the way you’ve also framed the positive aspects of simple factual or foundational answer searches as well by including the skills such as needing to verify answers and sources even with these types of questions.

  4. David,

    I saw a great presentation about creating better questions at #ISTE that I will try to find the link to. It wasn’t all new stuff but good reminders about developing better prompts and questions.

  5. Agreed. And that “second screen” strategy is a small leap, but a reasonable one in taking a lecture-based instructor that important next step. Baby steps for some. That’s not me, but I’m ok with it… especially if it is linked to a growth mindset.

    • davidjakes says:

      Sean: I think it would be interesting to see what that would look like. And I agree, maybe a step in the evolution of the student learning experience disrupted by the introduction of ubiquitous technology. I like the way you framed that…growth mindset…need to think more about what that looks like. Thanks for taking the time to add your thoughts.

  6. Google is a library. Using the library is good. Sometimes it’s better than others but what isn’t. The problem I see is distraction in class. If schools had wi-fi lots of kids would use it and it could be limited to educational sites.

  7. This is such an important message, David. Thanks for sharing.


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