Student Shortcomings – Anything but Masters of Technology
Higher Order Application Skills
To absolutely no one’s surprise, youngsters prefer interactive systems to passive ones. Therefore they love technology and yes, they do exhibit fairly strong basic technology skills.
However, the report indicated that these users are anything but “expert searchers.” In fact, the report indicates that younger users have real difficulty choosing good search terms.
The report also revealed the weaknesses created by the desire for interactive devices. Students in fact really, really like activity and therefore like to cut-and-paste. The report notes, “There is a lot of anecdotal evidence and plagiarism is a serious issue.”
A major surprise of the study for educators was to render one oft-heard complaint about young people fallacious. The growing belief is that technology has ultimately made students more impatient and added to their need for instant gratification. The report indicates there is no hard evidence that young people are any more impatient than are adults.”
Higher Order Thinking Skills
Another key area of deficiency is the ability to evaluate information that they obtain through electronic media. In fact the study indicates that students often fail to evaluate such information at all.
Notes the study, “There is little evidence that this (information evaluation) has improved over the last 10 to 15 years. Early research suggested nearly fifteen years ago (and pre-dating the Internet) that teenagers did not review information retrieved from online databases for relevance (e.g. from online databases) and, consequently, undertook unnecessary supplementary searches when they had already obtained the information required.”
To make determinations, the researchers examined the speed at which young people web search. They found that “the speed of young people’s web searching indicates that little time is spent in evaluating information, either for relevance, accuracy or authority and children have been observed printing-off and using Internet pages with no more than a perfunctory glance at them. Researchers have similarly found young people give a consistent lack of attention to the issue of authority.”
Students also show a real preference for visual information over text. Multi-media is often the preference but of course text is incredibly important. On the other hand, one real positive, students are indeed able to multi-task. Notes the report, “It is likely that being exposed to online media early in life may help to develop good parallel processing skills.”
Implications for Education
The report offers a rationale and a hint of where education could come into play. The researchers offer:
Students “need not only a broad understanding of how retrieval systems work and how information is represented within bibliographic or full text databases, but also some appreciation of the nature of the information space, and of how spelling, grammar and sentence structure contribute to effective searches.”
The study offers suggestions, that students are in need of “a mental map of how search engines work” as well as greater a vocabulary to give students the ability to move “from natural language” in search queries so as to “consider synonyms or other alternatives.”
In addition, there must be a focus on information skills. “Clearly people are having great difficulties navigating and profiting from the virtual scholarly environment. To facilitate this move, we should “start with effecting the shift from a content-orientation to a user-facing perspective and then on to an outcome focus.”
“Perhaps the greatest issue and the one that is the most difficult is to actually get these youngsters to understand their current shortcomings.
There is a big gap between their actual performance in information literacy tests and their self-estimates of information skill and library anxiety. The findings of these studies raise questions about the ability of schools and colleges to develop the search capabilities of the Google Generation to a level appropriate to the demands of higher education and research.”
And as with other learning issues, remediation tends to be far more difficult. “The key point is that information skills have to be developed during formative school years and that remedial information literacy programs at university level are likely to be ineffective.”