Role of Rote Memorization in the Google Age
What follows is an excessively long comment I had made in a discussion with Sarah Hanawald, now made into a proper post. Also what follows is my understanding of the much-lauded Bloom’s Taxonomy which hopes to answer the modern question for Bloom: Does the ready availability of knowledge in the digital age change the importance of Knowledge?
Is it possible to have higher-level thinking without having been immersed and having memorized Knowledge, or should lists — formerly memorized by rote — be provided on tests to help out students who aren’t good at memorization?
My understanding of Bloom is that higher-level thinking first requires quite a lot of Knowledge. It is in an integral part of the way the mind works — easier access to this knowledge overall can’t replace rote memorization of the basic details. To make real analysis, synthesis and evaluation, students must draw on their internal databanks. Please: Correct me if I’m wrong.
That’s not to say that there shouldn’t be preparation. I had a whole Bill of Rights quiz that I insisted my students take. This quiz asked for answers from my students’ rote memorization. They should have been well-prepared for my exam because of that quiz, though I threw in some matching questions later on in the Big Test.
I do know that there is quite a variation in memory capabilities among all students.
Students should be encouraged to work on this by themselves, or with the guidance of another adult. This is a skill that cannot be underestimated, and should not be discouraged by providing lists on the test.
I believe students and teachers benefit when we design assessments that allow students to show us what they can do as well as identify what they cannot yet do.
Yet that that’s the realm of formative assessment, as in a quiz. This should not be the focus of a summative assessment, as in this unit test.
In our digital age, when quick information is a Google search away, is there meaning in memorization? I think there is, and I plan to continue this topic again on another day.