On LIne Research

As our kids do projects for school, they are told that they can not use the Internet only but must use at least one book and possibly one magazine. 

My response to that was to say, that’s ridiculous.   So, the question that I posed to the Principal of the school is why?  He happens to be technologically savvy.  I posed the question,  doesn’t it make sense to teach the kids to use the Internet for research more intelligently.  Don’t we agree that kids who are more Internet savvy will be better off for their future?  Won’t there be more filters in the future that will allow students to find high-quality data?  Are libraries at colleges eventually going to become obsolete?

He made the point that kids tend to just try and get the work done.  They need to spend time wrestling with their thoughts, their ideas and come to some understanding of what they are doing. 

Agreed but I am not sure that opening up a book is going to change that.  Why don’t we spend time teaching kids how to promote their thinking through technology vs. the antiquated use of the library. 

My kids will certainly agree with me.  Through their constant use of the Internet, they have figured out what is rich data and what is not.  We all love books for reading but for research, it’s all on line.

Comments (Archived):

  1. Rance

    I read comments recently that college faculty have found that their students are very good at finding information on the Internet, but very poor at separating the wheat from the chaff. Anyone can post “facts” on the Internet, but when someone get something published, there is a lot better chance that it went through a editor and/or fact checker.

    That and the fact that in many areas, the majority of information in not available on-line.

    Those who know one, will tell you that when a good research librarian goes head-to-head with the internet, the librarian will win every time.

  2. Ken King | King Marketing

    A good research librarian AND the internet is what we’re aiming for here: teaching students the skills that allow a research librarian to know what information is valuable and trustworthy.

    To the principal’s point: kids focus on just “getting the work done” because that’s what their teachers demand of them. That’s all their teachers demand because that’s what is used to evaluate their school’s performance. Many jurisdictions in North America have adopted standardized testing of students’ command of the curriculum in the guise of quality control. However, these tests essentially hamstring teachers and force them to expend most or all of their efforts on ensuring students will test well, which is not necessarily congruent with making sure they learn.

    Why is that happening? Because policymakers believe that’s what parents want. If more parents were actively challenging (or even investigating) the methods being used in schools, policies might change, teachers might teach, and kids might learn.

    All of this, btw, is a great example of misplaced priorities as described in a classic article from 1975, On the folly of rewarding A, while hoping for B. The version linked to here was updated in 1995.

  3. scott partee

    I took a Junior-level course in Modern Chinese History in College, taught by Tim Cheek, one of the foremost experts on China out of Harvard’s programs. It was a rigorous, amazing course.

    This was back before the web, but we had interlinked research networks with terminals in our library. The second day of class, our professor gave us a research asignment for which existed very specific answers. They were tough to find, and we HAD to use the resources in the library to find them. I realized that I had never done “real” research before this point. I had simply been looking up keywords in the computers and matching books. But he had us pouring through periodical indexes, research abstract compendiums and all variety of amazing resources I had not even known existed and were not extant in our electronic indexes. While it was slow going, it was invaluable experience for the rest of my college career.

    Of course, in current times, the searching would be much easier with web technology. But I think there is a lot of value in learning the manual way and enforcing that. For example, what happens if there’s no power? Whip out a candle and open the books, right? Just because technology makes things faster and easier sometimes doesn’t mean it should substitute for learning the process behind the applications.

  4. Charlie O'Donnell

    I think if there was some interaction behind the paper, this might keep everyone honest–even the teacher. Some teachers I had over the years would just write in a grade, and not provide feedback and commentary, so sometimes, its not just the student who may not be taking a paper seriously enough. If students were told that they had the responsibility to defend their paper in class, and that their grade would partly depend on their in-class familiarity with the topic, I think they’d make sure they knew they understood what they were writing. Teachers should be taking points from various papers and using them to drive in-class discussion. Then, you’d really know who was putting thoughtwork into the paper and who was cutting and pasting. Plus, in real life, rarely do you ever write something to someone and not have to defend or discuss it offline, so its good prep for the future as well.