White bread for young minds, says university professor

White bread for young minds, says university professor – Times Online

Google is “white bread for the mind”, and the internet is producing a generation of students who survive on a diet of unreliable information, a professor of media studies will claim this week. She believes that easy access to information has dulled students’ sense of curiosity and is stifling debate.

If these students are so addicted to Google, then how is Google dulling their sense of curiosity? Don’t you Google something when you are curious about it? I don’t just mindlessly Google things all day long unless I have a passing interest in what I’m typing. Also, I usually run across a decent news article or two about my topic and learn more than I knew the moment before.

True, students may rely too much on Google or Wikipedia (which are two different beasts, each with its own set of strong points and weak points) for their information, or as a first, and only, research source. But I don’t think this is the solution:

Her own students are banned from using Wikipedia or Google as research tools in their first year of study, but instead are provided with 200 extracts from peer-reviewed printed texts at the beginning of the year, supplemented by printed extracts from eight to nine texts for individual pieces of work.

Draining the available research pool to these finite texts isn’t going to teach these students anything. By gathering all the printed material together for the students, handing it to them and then expecting them to use it for research paper preparation is like giving open-book tests all year long. Do the students really learn how to do their own research by giving them all the available material, telling them not to deviate from it, and then the next year releasing them into the wild, Google-White yonder to suddenly know how to research any better than before (when they were supposedly sustaining on a diet of Google search results and Wikipedia entries)?

“I want students to experience the pages and the print as much as the digitisation and the pixels – both are fine but I want students to have both – not one or the other, not a cheap solution,” she said.

If she can also provide those texts in digital format with a decent search algorithm, then more power to her. It sounds like she also has a problem with the digitizing of the printed word.


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