Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

An Educational Problem: Digital Natives Are Naive Searchers

Posted by Tom Foremski - May 1, 2013

John Wihbey at Journalist's Resource has highlighted an important problem: Young people aren't very good at search. 

Since Google's algorithms have trouble in distinguishing between spam and good content,  a  search-based education isn't much use if students  don't know how to evaluate sources of information.

 Young persons are often thought to be expert at navigating the digital world — they are “digital natives,” after all — but most research shows that when it comes to seeking credible information, they often fall short. Educators note that students sometimes have a hard time distinguishing between commercially influenced sites and peer-reviewed academic journals, for example. They also see many young people whose patience with the search process can quickly run thin.

A Pew survey of teachers: “How Teens Do Research in the Digital World” found:

a majority of this sample (60%), agree with the assertion that today’s technologies make it harder for students to find credible sources of information…. Only about one-quarter of teachers surveyed here rate their students ‘excellent’ or ‘very good.’

He has put together an excellent list of resources for educators. Here are some examples, there's far more on the site.

Dan Russell, Google’s“anthropologist of search,” updates his blog constantly with new tips and exercises that can challenge anyone who is looking to sharpen his or her search skills. The company also offers a variety of educational tools to help train students.

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Media students should probably have knowledge of good tools that relate to obtaining information about specific people and businesses. Barbara Gray of the New York Times and CUNY Graduate School of Journalism offers tips

Students should also know that Google Scholar offers a higher grade of information in general, much of which is peer-reviewed (here are some other quality databases.

Online information, credibility and the “Google generation”: Research review, tips, resources, reading list – Journalist's Resource: Research for Reporting, from Harvard Shorenstein Center

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