November 15, 2006

Hey, we knew that already

A controversially titled piece over at InsideHigherEd is causing a bit of a ruckus in the comments area.

Are College Students Techno Idiots? by Paul D. Thacker is on a report by the Educational Testing Service basically stating that students in higher education rely on Google way too much when they search and that they basically only use the first couple of results in a search without giving much thought to issues of accuracy, bias or recency.

Few test takers demonstrated effective information literacy skills, and students earned only about half the points that could have been awarded. Females fared just as poorly as males. For instance, when asked to select a research statement for a class assignment, only 44 percent identified a statement that captured the assignment’s demands. And when asked to evaluate several Web sites, 52 percent correctly assessed the objectivity of the sites, 65 percent correctly judged for authority, and 72 percent for timeliness. Overall, 49 percent correctly identified the site that satisfied all three criteria.

Results also show that students might even lack the basics on a search engine like Google. When asked to narrow a search that was too broad, only 35 percent of students selected the correct revision. Further, 80 percent of students put irrelevant points into a slide program designed to persuade an audience.
Of course, we libarians knew all this, and have been trying to make the case to faculty that we can help with this situation. It's actually nice to see an article like this in a publication like IHE since it helps raise the issue with faculty and also clearly make the case that librarians and libraries can help get students using the resouces that the faculty want them too.

I like the comment by Ross Hunt:
One would expect ETS to get this wrong end first: the idea that this is some sort of short-term processing problem (which willb e addressed by teaching them “how to evaluate information") ignores what the real problem is. Virtually none of my students have any notion of the ecology of texts — the fact that every text exists in a context out of which it comes and to which it speaks. They don’t know what a journal is, they don’t know what a scholarly article is, they don’t know what a magazine is — in the sense, in all those cases, that they don’t know how texts get where they are and why. For them, texts drop from Mars. And that’s because that’s the way they’ve been taught to see them by textbooks and isolated photocopies. My main job as a teacher of English — as I see it, anyway — is to introduce them into the world of texts and help them learn to survive in it. For ETS to tell us that they’re “Techno-Idiots” because they don’t know what nobody’s ever shown them is about what we should expect.

I find as I do more and more IL sessions for scitech students, the main thing I try to teach them is what kind of documents are available, what each type is used for and how to find each type.

This is a great article to pass around to faculty -- the title will certainly get them reading while the content should get them thinking about their friendly neighbourhood librarian.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks John - it's a great article which I will share with my colleagues.