Point. Click. Think?

from the did-you-learn-anything dept

I’m involved in a few email mailing lists where lately I’ve been causing some trouble by arguing over how too many people think superficially when making an argument, and simply post articles that support their position without ever looking critically at them. I hadn’t really thought about this before, but the following article suggests that many students today aren’t thinking as deeply about issues because they do all of their research on the web. They get a quick (often faulty) summary for what they need to learn, mix the words up a bit, and they’ve got a complete paper without the slightest understanding of what they’re talking about. I’m always a little nervous about articles that blame technology for some sort of woe, but this is an interesting theory that’s worth thinking about. Certainly, in the pre-web days many people still did the same thing by skimming books, magazines, and journals, and throwing stuff together, but now it’s become so easy for people to research any topic just by looking up related websites, that it’s much less likely for someone to really research a topic before cementing their opinions on it. I’d imagine things like blogs (yeah, I’m guilty), where opinions and analysis are crammed into even smaller spaces, don’t help this much, either.

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Comments on “Point. Click. Think?”

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Jonathan Grant says:

full of superiority..

..some of the people quoted in this article remind me of MMORPG developers. that is, they clearly subscribe to the “achievement requires enormous tedium” theory.
“The Internet makes it ungodly easy now for people who wish to be lazy”
..mmm, because you know, anything that’s not hard is a worthless endeavor.
“will walk into our library and spend 30 minutes on the Internet trying to find out how a cobbler worked in Colonial America I’ll walk over and ask, ‘Want to try a book now?’ “
..perhaps a little less intellectual snobbery, and a little more work to improve library interface with the web might be appropriate here. but then, that might include a change to the status quo.
“Shallow thinking is one result, he says. Another is the unwillingness among some students to take a strong position themselves lest they be battered by classmates for their ideas.”
..bullshit. if students are hesitant to take a strong position, i’d blame the ‘everything is relative’ garbage that most Liberal Arts professors around the country are peddling.
“a person who wrote a book was assumed to be an authority. ‘Now, when anybody can have a Web site on any topic, then everybody is an expert, which means nobody is.'”
..i don’t remember perceiving book authors as authorities in the pre-web years. there’s certainly no author certification program. anyone can write a book. anyone can make a website. the web however, solves your book distribution problems. oh, the horror.
..it’s easy to agree with this article when if focuses on the real problem: the web is a shallow source. if librarians and other with access to “deep” references were more focused on the problem of integrating their information pool into the web (don’t feed me any copyright bullshit, you don’t have to reprint a book on the web in order to make it open to discovery), we might make actual progress toward a more informed student body. why do that however, when you can safely remain irrelevant by railing against an advancement that’s left you behind.

Fred Baube says:

Are students intelligent?

You wrote, “They get a quick (often faulty) summary for what they need to learn, mix the words up a bit, and they’ve got a complete paper without the slightest understanding of what they’re talking

Unless I’m quite mistaken, I think that any student doing this would be failing the Turing test. To put it another way, such students can be replaced by computers.

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