They Didn't Ask Me (dr_phil_physics) wrote,
They Didn't Ask Me

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Let's Blame The Students

Mrs. Dr. Phil is an academic librarian and she e-mailed this link which they'd been batting around the office today. It's an article from Inside Higher Education with the provocative title Are College Students Techno Idiots?.

Now first of all, I like the phrase "Techno Idiots". Lots of people of all sorts of stripes and abilities are idiots of one description or another. I'm sure I'm an idiot to a whole lotta people. But what's interesting on this article about information literacy is the comments, and some of the commenters are left wondering if someone cobbled up this cool Techno Idiots tag and then sought to come up with an article to use it.

The Basic Premise

The article takes the position that our technologically savvy college students don't fare well on a test of information literacy, and only ever look at the first couple of hits on a Google search and don't even know how to refine such a search very well for improved relevance.

Fair enough. But do we spend any time trying to teach information literacy? And anyway, if Google's algorithms have any validity -- and like it or not, Google's stock price just climbed above $500, so someone is thinking their system or evil plans are peachy, I'm just sayin' -- then the good hits should be the first couple on the first page. (grin) Being a geek, I sometimes go through ten pages in a Google search. (double-grin) Or I refine the search based on the kind of hits I've gotten and the kind of hits I want. And with some search terms, you're just screwed.

Of course, my premise is that a certain amount of this vaunted technological savviness is a lot of "sound and fury signifying nothing" as students cellphone, walkie-talkie, e-mail and text message each other, or participate in bloglike instant gratifications like MySpace, etc. Passing notes written on paper in class or slipped into the vents of locker doors doesn't equal a great passing ability for the written word either. So if you're looking for a lot of tech savvy slash info lit savvy, you need to step away from the central hump of the bell curve anyway.

Slinging More Fake Value Terms

The comments also discussed some of the name calling going on. Is using Google "gauche"? Is Wikipedia the death of the validated published hard copy encyclopedia? You know, every tool has its uses and its limitations. Wikipedia does some things well and others not so good. Yet I use it and I use Google. For any hits I get with either, I do engage some small percentage of my Mark I gray matter processor space and make judgments whether to pass or stay. So yeah, we have to teach some quality control issues. But Google and Wikipedia are ubiquitous, and so are going to be used.

If you want to make more of it, then as one commenter said, then the students are looking to the teachers for the information to develop the skills they need. Meanwhile, the headline "Techno Idiots" is a bit over the top and unnecessary to further the discussion.

Fair enough, indeed.

Dr. Phil

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