I recently had the conversation below with a high school science teacher (and, yes, I did it respectfully for those of you who are wondering)...


I want my students to learn the parts of a neuron.


In an era of near-instant Internet search, it's possible that knowing the parts of a neuron isn't really that important. For example, if I don't know what the parts of a neuron are, I probably can find a couple dozen images of neurons - with parts labeled - in about 5 seconds using an online image search engine. It seems to me that what's more important is generally knowing what neurons are, how they work, why I should care about them, how they impact my health and well-being, how current cutting-edge neurological research may impact me in the future, and so on. 

Will I need to learn the parts of a neuron in the short term so that I can understand these bigger issues? Yes, most likely. Six weeks from now, will it be important if I still remember the parts of a neuron? Probably not, because I always can look it up again. But the bigger-picture understandings about neurons and how they impact me? That's what I need to remember six weeks from now - and six years from now. That's the stuff that's important. Assess on what's important.

Your turn

What do you think? Would you have responded differently than I did?