Skip

I'm teh uglee kid on teh internets
January 20, 2008 11:28 PM   Subscribe

Study: Internet Not Dumbing Down Kids, Who Were Stupid Anyway. Full report! (warning: PDF) The information literacy of young people, has not improved with the widening access to technology: in fact, their apparent facility with computers disguises some worrying problems. Young people have unsophisticated mental maps of what the internet is, often failing to appreciate that it is a collection of networked resources from different providers. (Like tubes!)
posted by parmanparman (43 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
As a member of Generation X I am of course very skilled at using the letter X. The ability is so innate, in fact, that in childhood I scoffed, Stewie-like, at the sophomoric attempts of Sesame Street to learn me better. Eat my xylophone, Brian Henderson.

My parents and aunts and uncles are all demolition experts.
posted by XMLicious at 11:50 PM on January 20, 2008


From the report:

Challenges:

Avoiding the decoupling scenario – libraries being
decoupled from the user and the publisher. With
the arrival of the e-book libraries will become even
more remote from their users and publishers will
become even closer as a result of consumer
footfalls occurring in their domain. The fall out with
publishers over open access and institutional
repositories has caused a schism between
librarians and publishers and the increasing
willingness of the user to pay for information (a
trend noticed by all publishers) will increase the
isolation of libraries.
posted by parmanparman at 11:51 PM on January 20, 2008


Was anybody seriously considering that exposure to the internet would lead to increased literacy? Did they actually read the internet? It's not exactly all Wordsworth and Longfellow out here.
posted by doctor_negative at 12:01 AM on January 21, 2008 [3 favorites]


If there were some way to undo all the netspeak that permeantes 90% of written communication between members of my apathetic and admittedly pathetic generation, I'd gladly give up a week of MeFi to make it happen.

Case in point.
posted by Phire at 12:04 AM on January 21, 2008


Am I wrong when I say tha the post proves itself, at least when it comes to improperly placed commas?
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 12:08 AM on January 21, 2008


Dammit! I deserved that I guess
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 12:08 AM on January 21, 2008


This does not have anything to do with netspeak or commas.
posted by Jpfed at 12:12 AM on January 21, 2008


You know what bothers me? Those people who used to play Mozart to their unborn fetuses. I mean, sure, it's Mozart, but you're not teaching the unborn to distinguish between sources of the music, and the quality of those sources. They're not going to grow up just knowing that the BIS/Martin Fröst recording of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto is superior to the Hans Vonk recording. And that just won't do. It just won't do at all.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:26 AM on January 21, 2008 [4 favorites]


Did they actually read the internet?
Not the whole thing, but I looked at the Cole's Notes.
posted by Grangousier at 12:45 AM on January 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


A few passages stuck out like sore thumbs:

Researchers have similarly found young people give a consistent lack of attention to the issue of authority. In one study, many teenagers thought that if a site was indexed by Yahoo it had to be authoritative, and so the question did not arise.

That's the scariest thing I've read all day.

Students usually prefer the global searching of Google to more sophisticated but more time-consuming searching provided by the library, where students must make separate searches of the online catalog and every database of potential interest, after first identifying which databases might be relevant.

I've never understood why a given library search was always limited to a specific database, rather than allowing searches through an interface that transparently adapted queries given it to each of its databases.
posted by Jpfed at 12:51 AM on January 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


I liked how in the Ars Technica "Hey, someone put something on the internet, let me write a few sentences about it for Digg to link to and then stick over 9000 ads on the side" article we have "The report's cover image. Seriously." Then, in the full report, that is indeed seriously the cover image, and then I feel like seriously is not the way to take this report.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 12:56 AM on January 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


The stupid shit I heard as a kid before the web is no stupider than the stupid shit on the web now. The difference is that it's much easier to get at the facts now if you're willing to try. All in all I'd call that a net improvement. Pun not intended but it's there if you want one.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:03 AM on January 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


later on in 2008, i'm going to roll out web 3.0, just as soon as i figure out what it is.
posted by bruce at 1:04 AM on January 21, 2008


no stupider no less stupid
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:06 AM on January 21, 2008


Heh, Jpfed, so what would you say to plagiarizers who are too lazy (or too stupid) to remove the tell-tale blue links so characteristic to everybody's favourite Web-cyclopedia? The amount of reverence given to Wikipedia by students is quite amusing, to say the least.
posted by Phire at 1:07 AM on January 21, 2008


Newsflash: Youth have not accrued as many life experiences as older people, consequently they know less. This is common sense. Now stop conducting studies to prove this . . . and get off my lawn.
posted by boubelium at 1:07 AM on January 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


Just to reiterate jpfed's note above, this doesn't have to do with reading literacy, people. The OP's term "information literacy" is referring to general research skills - how to find information, determine the quality of information, or determine where a piece of information comes from. The point of the article and study is that although young people appear to be generationally internet-savvy, their savvy does not extend to this part of using the internet.

(And ironically, misunderstanding that actually demonstrates a limitation of your own reading comprehension skills, though it's certainly understandable if you read the post quickly.)
posted by XMLicious at 1:37 AM on January 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


Kids. They're as stupid as we were.
posted by magnusbe at 2:27 AM on January 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


"virtual longitudinal study"

Excuse me while I clean the cola off my desk. Or as I shall now call it "virtual dna analysis cleanup". Soon I will have to go and cook my "virtual bio-chemical research project" for lunch.
posted by srboisvert at 2:39 AM on January 21, 2008


Everyone knows that everyone else is an idiot.
posted by rhizome23 at 2:49 AM on January 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


>> In one study, many teenagers thought that if a site
>> was indexed by Yahoo it had to be authoritative,
>> and so the question did not arise.

> That's the scariest thing I've read all day.

It's only a natural progression from the fairly common belief among children (and some adults...) that if a book's in the non-fiction section of the library, everything in it must be true.

And yes, this is tied into the information-literacy concept, which in turn is intimately connected to critical thinking in general. And Web searches, even naively constructed ones, will lead you to very good information on this subject, if you can only think to ask the question in the first place. A non-phrase Google search for "how do we know something is true" gives some great results in the first four hits.

(And then... some stuff on which to test your new skills.)
posted by dansdata at 4:20 AM on January 21, 2008


Surely it's something that could be solved pretty easily - a few lessons devoted to teaching kids about different sources of information, what's appropriate and authoritative and what isn't, the importance of referencing, the importance of peer-review, the weaknesses of global search engines like Google and Yahoo, the wealth of information in books, encompassing all history, that haven't been put on the internet. While you're at it, teach them how easy Google makes it to spot plagiarism these days...

Mostly I think kids are just let at it - go write a paper on this, put it on my desk in a week, with little preparation. I imagine teaching this sort of stuff is something librarians would be happy to apply themselves to, if given the opportunity.
posted by Jimbob at 4:21 AM on January 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


I remember finding sources and making the bibliography to be part of jr. high in '95. It seems to me that most kids going to school are presented with this material, just like most of the things kids don't know gud enuff.
posted by MNDZ at 5:40 AM on January 21, 2008


Jimbob: I've done such lessons as part of instructing novice (9th-10th grade) debaters. They acknowledge the words coming out of your mouth; they can perform some basic exercises to show that they understood them. Then, 20 minutes later they will do the same stupid shit. It's not a lack of incentive, since it causes them to lose. I see/saw the same stupid shit from college students, adults in business, and politicians. Dealing with medical students makes it worse; there is an overwhelming volume of information which they are told to simply flip the mental "fact" switch for.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 5:42 AM on January 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Why burn books when you can just ignore them out of existence?

Commercial control over access to information is just plain scary. Same old, same old - only much more so.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:48 AM on January 21, 2008


Kids don't understand everything and don't value scholarship as much as adults think they should.

Who would have thunk it?
posted by sfts2 at 6:24 AM on January 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Young people have unsophisticated mental maps of what the internet is

Reminds me of that kid who undertook the project of "printing out the whole internet."
posted by jayder at 7:07 AM on January 21, 2008


ciber research is overrated anyway.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 8:45 AM on January 21, 2008


Everything bad is...er, apparently still bad.
posted by waxbanks at 8:46 AM on January 21, 2008


What picks my ass is that this report, which explodes myths about super-sleuths, explores hoary chestnuts, and axes the idea of instant gratification concludes that today's kids like to cut and paste. This makes my toes curl. I'm mad as a wet hen. Why didn't their parents, who worked their fingers to the bone promoting originality, nip this in the bud?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:18 AM on January 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


a few lessons devoted to teaching kids about different sources of information

At my last museum job, I frequently led a workshop in historical research methods. I'd usually begin with questioning kids about where they'd go to find information about a specific event in their town in the past. Usually, the first or second response was "the internet," stated just as generally as that. We'd probe and ask "where on the internet?" to introduce the idea of evaluating sources. It was disturbing how often the reaction was surprise that things on the internet might be false. This was between 1999 and 2004, incidentally.

We would go on to explore the concept of 'reliable source' by looking at Google searches of "Flatiron Building." This building in New York is often thought to have once been the tallest building in New York city. Though it never was the tallest building, almost all the first-page Google hits at the time I was teaching the workshop stated confidently that the Flatiron Building had been the tallest during its year of construction*. Then we'd introduce one site that had the correct information, and use this to discuss sources and weight of evidence and so on. It was a great way to begin the workshop.

Research skills and critical thinking skills are not valued under No Child Left Behind legislation and have been disappearing from public school curricula in the US for about seven years now. In addition, the world of teacher education has been required to shift its focus in response. We are now graduating trained teachers whose instruction has focused on reading literacy and numeracy and neglected skills not testable. Will these teachers be equipped to prepare students to evaluate the information available on the internet? Will they themselves be able to spot misinformation or know where to go to confirm/repudiate information presented in student work?

*Interestingly, that's no longer true. Now when I read an internet I note that most of the front page hits for "flatiron building" + "tallest" clearly say that that belief was a common misconception.
posted by Miko at 10:15 AM on January 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


I guess it needs to be made clear that having access to a powerful tool does not make one an expert in it's use. I can be given a hammer, a chisel, and a block of marble, and it doesn't meant that I'm going to automatically be able to carve a beautiful statue.

For similar reasons, just because kids use the internet doesn't mean that they will be magically predisposed to crafting and refining search parameters. They need to learn this just the same way that in the past, we would have taught them to use a card catalog or a bibliography.

I sort of assumed that this was obvious and lot's of studies to prove it wouldn't be needed.
posted by quin at 10:23 AM on January 21, 2008


"Heh, Jpfed, so what would you say to plagiarizers who are too lazy (or too stupid) to remove the tell-tale blue links so characteristic to everybody's favourite Web-cyclopedia? The amount of reverence given to Wikipedia by students is quite amusing, to say the least."

Man, I had a writer quit when I was editing the opinions section of my college paper because she turned in something that still had the "citation needed" tag on it and I called her on it.
posted by klangklangston at 10:25 AM on January 21, 2008


Why didn't their parents, who worked their fingers to the bone promoting originality, nip this in the bud?

Because their teachers, who mark to a schedule, stamped it out.

No disrespect to teachers who try hard to nurture each precious flower in their care, but in my neck of the woods computer education is mere training, and purely vocational - parents and employers want just want their kids to learn Office and create presentations. The computer is seen essentially as a device for producing things with superior production values to pen and paper, not as a creative medium for programming or as a tool for the writer or artist. My kid got maybe half a dozen sessions on video editing which has fired her interest for film, but everything else was rote learning applications.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 10:34 AM on January 21, 2008


Good criticism, i_am_joe's_spleen, and good argument for teaching technology across the curriculum, not as a discrete skill. "Technology across the curriculum," in fact, is a good search term to look at some programs and literature about that topic.
posted by Miko at 10:56 AM on January 21, 2008


Research skills and critical thinking skills are not valued under No Child Left Behind legislation and have been disappearing from public school curricula in the US for about seven years now.

this is very true. schools that focus on technology (like some charters) do at least make gestures toward teaching about resources. it is, however, merely a gesture--being something like "Wikipedia is only good for the resource list at the bottom" and something that, from my substitute teacher vantage point, sounds suspiciously like "Everything on the Internet is biased and therefore useless information." I had a bunch of seniors last semester who claimed to know how to write a Works Cited list, only to receive a list of links, at best. (no descriptions or authors anywhere to be found.)

however, i do think, as i'm reading this, that part of the problem is that the only kids who get access to an unfettered, uncensored Internet are the middle class (and up) and library goers. (outside of school hours.) and both of those groups are overseen by adults who hold the keys of time. in other words, the shorter time a kid is allowed on the net, the less likely s/he is to use it for information/learning reasons. (more likely to use it for MySpace and to catch up to all the cultural references their classmates are spouting around their cubbies.)

even in "technology" schools, the Net is so restricted as to be nearly useless. there is a constant refrain from kids: "I have to wait until I go home to do my research, because I can't get anywhere here." so how can schools teach about how to find decent resources, when everything is blocked?

the access to an open Internet and more reasonably monitored "screen time" is the best reason to homeschool in modern times. my kid has more understanding of the Net because he has both the time and the one-on-one assistance to learn how to use it.

i agree with you, i_am_joe's_spleen--the kids are learning to bore you with PowerPoint, mostly. there are hints of creativity-inspiring video use and stuff, but they are given out as mere tastes. i research technology in education every day, and all you have to do to get a "Teacher of the Year" award, it seems, is spend a few months using some application or gadget (usually a gift directly from an interested corp.)--and everyone swoons. but it is invariably a project that gets canceled because it "costs too much" or the teacher moves on... nothing but the basics are used sustainably.

technology use in schools is pathetic. i don't see any real end in sight. (little temporary bright spots notwithstanding.)
posted by RedEmma at 11:12 AM on January 21, 2008


It seems kind of obvious that research skills and critical thinking are things that children need to be taught, whether using the internet or not. There seems to be a pervasive attitude that young people are so far advanced in internet usage that there is nothing that adults could possibly have to teach them on the subject. Of course that's not the case. There's a particular type of critical thinking and a certain level of literacy required to use the internet successfully as a research tool, and you don't even need a computer on hand to teach those skills. I get the feeling that educators are intimidated by the technology aspect and sometimes miss that the basic thought processes that are necessary for researching successfully on the internet are quite similar to researching in the analog world.
posted by louche mustachio at 12:03 PM on January 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is all kind of funny to me—the "open school" program that I attended (as part of the public school system in Ann Arbor) was all about teaching critical thinking and information literacy as its primary mission, but they started tampering with that core my last couple years, in order to make us compliant with the state test curriculum.
posted by klangklangston at 12:13 PM on January 21, 2008


Eh, it's school. It's a mistake to assume any of the kids are paying attention anyway.
posted by jonmc at 12:22 PM on January 21, 2008


What?
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:43 PM on January 21, 2008


Is this gonna be on the test?
posted by Miko at 1:45 PM on January 21, 2008


Research skills and critical thinking skills are not valued under No Child Left Behind legislation and have been disappearing from public school curricula in the US for about seven years now.
and
It seems kind of obvious that research skills and critical thinking are things that children need to be taught, whether using the internet or not. There seems to be a pervasive attitude that young people are so far advanced in internet usage that there is nothing that adults could possibly have to teach them on the subject.

This is the heart of the problem, and cannot be stressed enough. I think that the myth of kids knowing more about tech than adults has been present since the internet exploded in the mid-90s (I'd love to know where it came from!) and I'm sure that in the beginning it must have been true for at least some teachers (who were already starting to get hit with the obsession with testing that has taken over the US public education system.

Allow me to put on my crotchety old person hat for a moment--when I was in elementary school, ca. late 70s-early 80s, we were given regular instruction in library materials (the card catalog, facts on file, Dewey Decimal, etc.) in multiple grades, and this was repeated in middle school. Now, I'm sure many of my peers weren't paying attention, but certainly something must have sunk in after all that repetition, and for the college-bound among us (like me) that education was invaluable. It was important not because of the specific technologies we were using, but because of the fundamental principles we were learning. These are the principles that are absolutely missing from public education today. And let me tell you, once they get to me in college, it is just about impossible to undo the damage. /old person rant

Think of it this way: you can get a driver's license, showing you know how to drive a car, without actually knowing anything about how cars work. By the same token, many, many young people today know how to "drive" the internet (i.e. get to their favorite destinations, like MySpace, Google, etc.) without actually knowing anything at all about what the internet or the web actually are, or how they work.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 2:36 PM on January 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


“I'm teh uglee kid on teh internets”

ASL?

A lot of this was going on before the web became so ubiquitous though. Buddy of mine in high school argued with a teacher in class and got reamed for it because he disputed one of the elements of the U.S. Civil War. The teacher was blatently wrong. He and I had been wargaming and doing extensive research on the battles and we knew he was wrong, we could prove he was wrong and we had evidence - with us - to show he was wrong.
He got suspended and I got weekend detention.
Critical thought was never that big, as a rule, in school. Some, I’d say many teachers, excepted. But enough of the system rests on that so that when you do get a couple, or even one, teacher who’s just going through the motions or is an authoritarian, it really impacts learning.

Couple that with how many parents emphasize behavior rather than actual critical thought (‘Because I’m your father/mother that’s why’) and you have more kids turning to the illusion of openness on the web.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:30 PM on January 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


« Older NatGeo Photo Tips   |   Kin-dza-dza! Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post