10 ways Google’s philosophy can guide teachers


Teaching | Monday, December 15, 2014

10 ways Google’s philosophy can guide teachers

Google sums up its philosophy in its “Ten things we know to be true.” There are great lessons for education in most (but not all!) of them.

Google sums up its philosophy in its “Ten things we know to be true.” There are great lessons for education in most (but not all!) of them.

Google has become a household name and has infiltrated almost every part of our lives.

Need to find information? Google it.

Want to see a music video, documentary or other videos? Find them on YouTube (owned by Google).

Need to create files that you can share with anyone? Google Drive does that.

Have to pay but don’t have your credit card? Google Wallet will pay for you.

Google has its own cell phones (powered by Android), its own interactive glasses (Google Glass) and its own computers (Chromebooks), among many other products.

Obviously, Google is doing something right. The company has its priorities straight (well, in many ways …) and is succeeding. So, a look at its corporate philosophy could shed some light on how the world can succeed in this new technological age.

At Google Teacher Academy a couple weeks ago, I heard about Google’s “Ten things we know to be true.” They’re a collections of statements and rationale for each that are supposed to guide everything that Google does.

These things that Google knows to be true have some great guidance for us in the education realm. Some advice is more relevant than others because great education is fundamentally different in many ways from great business (even though politicians and the general public disagree sometimes). But there are some great maxims to follow in education based on Google’s philosophy.

Here are all of Google’s “Ten things we know to be true,” with some thoughts about how the connect to education:

1. “Focus on the user and all else will follow” — Teachers know their students better than almost anyone. They’re in a great position to make the best decisions for their education, and that’s not a power that should be taken lightly.

2. “It’s best to do one thing really, really well” — As educators, we often don’t have the luxury of being good at just one thing. But we do have our strengths, and if we can use those strengths to shine, they can outweigh our weaknesses.

3. “Fast is better than slow” — There are times when this is totally wrong in education, especially when those actions leave students totally confused or jeopardize their safety or comfort. But the education system — and individual classrooms — could learn from Google’s prototype and refine strategy. We’re too slow to make change sometimes. Jumping in to try new ideas and modifying as we go is much better than waiting until everything’s perfect. (And everything’s never perfect.)

4. “Democracy on the web works” — Democracy in the classroom works, too. The Internet is a powerful medium that threatens to make school irrelevant if we don’t help students learn what they need and want. Student voice is crucial. They know what they want and need (to some degree, at least) and should be able to weigh in. (By the way, this is a real weakness of mine. I know the immense value in it but have struggled in making it happen in my own classroom.)

5. “You don’t need to be at your desk to need an answer” — Students don’t need to be in classes to need an answer. These days more than ever, we need students who are lifelong learners who have the skills necessary to find answers to their questions.

6. “You can make money without doing evil” — I really struggled to find an educational connection to this one! This one’s a bit of a tenuous connection, but here goes — Google follows a high set of standards regarding its searches, including identifying what’s an ad and what’s a search result. That way, everyone benefits. (OK, I’m not totally buying this one … help me out and write me a better No. 6 in the comments, would you?)

7. “There’s always more information out there” — Google found that it’s worth the extra work to identify the hard-to-find information out there and help people find it through searches. This sounds a lot like the challenges we can provide students in our lessons. The easy answers usually aren’t worthwhile in the end, and they won’t develop that grit and determination that will serve students after graduation.

8. “The need for information crosses all borders” — Google has found the benefits in going international. Tomorrow’s world will be a global one — even more than it is now! The more multicultural and worldwide we can make our classes, the better prepared our students will be for the future. Technology makes connections to almost anyone all over the world possible. Find ways to harness them!

9. “You can be serious without a suit” — Much of the traditional culture around schools is focused on obedience and formality. Students are told to sit quietly. Stay in your seat. Do your work without interruption. Don’t talk. Don’t share. You can do serious learning without school uniforms, straight desk rows and quiet classrooms. In fact, most students are wired for that kind of non-traditional learning!

10. “Great just isn’t good enough” — Imagine if Google had developed a great search engine and then became complacent. It would generate great profits and still be a leader in its field, but so many of its best products would never have existed. Even though it isn’t easy, everyone in every field can benefit from thinking bigger, newer and different. You’ll never know how far you can go unless you jump!

Which of the Google philosophy statements really resonates with you? What would you add to any of them in relation to education?
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  • Katherine Albright says:

    I really like number 10! We may be considered “great” but, we can ALWAYS do better!!

  • Tony Doyle says:

    “Great just isn’t good enough.” As a librarian I have to constantly prove my worth. There is no rating on my laurels. If I can’t answer the question what have you done for us lately my job will be cut. I have to embrace the concept of continuous improvement to remain relevant.

  • John Bennett says:

    Thanks for bringing back this post!!! I personally like this one: 5. “You don’t need to be at your desk to need an answer” To me that’s the biggest reason (but for sure not the only reason) for smart phones – you can get needed input ANTWHERE! And I personally learned this from our grandchildren. When they wanted some information during play or when “hanging out,” out came their iPods or whatever and they did a Google search – without hesitation. And so, now that’s Papa’s approach; whether it’s the name of an old movie or what hours the town transfer station is open or what’s the explanation of lift from an airplane wing, I look it up!!!

    And, by the way, it has another important lesson, Googling a topic. Quite often, the information is not useful for any number of reasons – one being flat out wrong. Regardless of the user’s age, it’s an important lesson. As an aside, the same thing often happens with textbooks as well; sadly though, this is rarely questioned BECAUSE IT’S A TEXTBOOK!!! The previously mentioned “lift from an airplane wing” is a great example…

  • Steven Drake says:

    Hi Matt, great post and food for resolutions. Your comment about statement 2. “As educators, we often don’t have the luxury of being good at just one thing” is true to a point, but surely being an a good educator/teacher comes under the umbrella of being good at just one thing!

  • Jamie Palmer says:

    Hi, Matt!
    When I read the Google statement #6, I immediately thought of testing and the companies that are profiting off of the testing we are required to administer to students.

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