Is it a noogler?

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When I first started teaching, I remember getting some advice about students asking questions. If a student asks a question in class that you don’t know the answer to, research the answer, and then at the next class session, report what you learned. I tried that a couple times, both with the same result: students looking at me blankly, including the student who asked the question. Not all questions have the same degree of importance. There are burning questions, there are idle curiosity questions, and then there are questions that flick through our consciousness sticking around only long enough to come out of our mouths.

Yesterday, my wife and I were on our way to meet friends for lunch. (That detail is not necessary for the story, but it adds a bit of ambiance.) I told her that I recently learned that where we used to live, King County, Washington (Seattle and environs), has a population of 2.2 million. The entire state of New Mexico—where we recently moved back to—has a population of 2.1 million. The difference of 100,000 is the population of our new hometown and the second largest city in the state, Las Cruces. In other words, if New Mexico had a second city the size of Las Cruces, we’d have as many people as King County, Washington. (This is merely one example of the deep, intellectual conversations we have.) Then I added that I recently learned that in the 1980s, Las Cruces had about 50,000 people. My wife replied, “I wonder what the population of Las Cruces was in the 50s and 60s.” I waved my hand in the direction of her phone. She said, “I don’t care that much.” I laughed, and said, “There should be a word for that.”

There should be a word for a question that we have that we don’t care enough about to even pick up our phones to google it. My wife immediately coined a term. A question not worth googling we now call a “noogler,” a non-googler. (I just googled “noogler,” and it’s a term Google uses for their new employees. Since most of people don’t work for Google—at least not yet—I don’t expect us to run into any confusion.

The next time you’re in class, and a student asks a question that you think might be a noogler, ask. “Is this a question you’d really like the answer to or is it a noogler?” If they’d really like the answer, give them the Google search terms you’d use to look it up and a reminder them that Reddit and Quora are not reliable sources. “Raise your hand when you’ve found the answer.” If it’s a noogler, return to your regularly scheduled course content.

About the Author
Sue Frantz has taught psychology since 1992. She has served on several APA boards and committees, and was proud to serve the members of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology as their 2018 president. In 2013, she was the inaugural recipient of the APA award for Excellence in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at a Two-Year College or Campus. She received in 2016 the highest award for the teaching of psychology--the Charles L. Brewer Distinguished Teaching of Psychology Award. She presents nationally and internationally on the topics of educational technology and the pedagogy of psychology. She is co-author with Doug Bernstein and Steve Chew of Teaching Psychology: A Step-by-Step Guide, 3rd ed. and is co-author with Charles Stangor on Introduction to Psychology, 4.0.