The Official Google Blog featured a significant post for educators this week: Our Googley advice to students: major in learning. (thanks to Cool Cat Teacher for the link.) Written by Google’s Senior VP of Product Management, the post outlines the qualities Google looks for in a prospective employee.
What are they looking for?
“At the highest level, we are looking for non-routine problem-solving skills. We expect applicants to be able to solve routine problems as a matter of course. After all, that’s what most education is concerned with. But the non-routine problems offer the opportunity to create competitive advantage, and solving those problems requires creative thought and tenacity.”
So what does that have to do with libraries? Plenty. The ideal school library program is one that serves as a learning playground where students learn to answer questions posed, solve real-world problems, create their own solutions and have fun doing it.
Students who have learned how to learn = Google quality employees
A thriving school library program will help students develop the qualities that Google and other businesses are looking for, which are these:
* analytical reasoning – To solve problems, the Google employees start by analyzing the data and discussing what they know, rather than what they think they know.
Library research projects that are developed around a real-world scenario can help students develop their analytical skills by requiring text evidence be used to support conclusions.
* communication skills – Google maintains that having the evidence is no good, if you can’t effectively communicate your solutions.
There are many activities that can be done in the library to help students develop communication skills – presenting conclusions drawn from research, reading poetry aloud, reader’s theater – these are all ways of practicing the skill of communicating. Students can also learn about effective product design in the library – this is part of communicating findings too.
* a willingness to experiment – Google looks for people who try various ways of solving a problem before coming up with a definitive answer.
Libraries have a multitude of resources for students to use when researching. Which one is best to answer the research question? Sometimes the first one selected doesn’t work and you have to try another one. I think this is where learning tenacity comes in. Library research projects should require that students try lots of resources, comparing and verifying the information found.
* team players – all work at Google is done in small teams.
This is also a great way to tackle a research project. Designing a project this way, allows students the opportunity to solve not only the academic problem presented, but also any social problems that may arise.
* passion and leadership – at Google, this means “be[ing] motivated by a sense of importance about what you do.”
When planning a library research experience for students, this is a substantial piece of the puzzle. Students who are presented with a thought-provoking question to answer, invariably get a sense of importance about the work they are doing.
Did you realize that by working with teachers to design challenging but fun learning experiences in the library and teaching students information skills you were also helping them develop invaluable life skills? When you stop to think about it, it’s pretty amazing all of the learning that can be packed into a research project.
As we look toward the start of another school year, I urge you to be firm in your resolve to create these kinds of experiences for your students whenever possible. You’re not just teaching information skills, you’re teaching important life skills – you’re teaching kids how to learn.