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Are College Students Techno Idiots? 297

Posted by Zonk
from the need-nerd-training-stat dept.
ict_geek writes "Are college students techno idiots? Despite the inflammatory headline, Inside Higher Ed asks an interesting question. The article refers to a recent study by ETS, which analyzed results from 6,300 students who took its ICT Literacy Assessment. The findings show that students don't know how to judge the authoritativeness or objectivity of web sites, can't narrow down an overly broad search, and can't tailor a message to a particular audience. Yikes. According to the article: 'when asked to select a research statement for a class assignment, only 44 percent identified a statement that captured the assignment's demands. And when asked to evaluate several Web sites, 52 percent correctly assessed the objectivity of the sites, 65 percent correctly judged for authority, and 72 percent for timeliness. Overall, 49 percent correctly identified the site that satisfied all three criteria.'" If they are, they're not the only ones.
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Are College Students Techno Idiots?

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  • by guysmilee (720583) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @02:43PM (#16872936)
    Clearly this is posted by one of the studies subjects :-)
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TubeSteak (669689)
      Clearly this is posted by one of the studies subjects :-)

      I wonder if they all had to sit through those Library "orientation" classes

      Personally, I have serious doubts about anyone's ability to teach a "techno idiot" the ability to judge the authoritativeness or objectivity of web sites, etc during a single class period.
      • by Bender0x7D1 (536254) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @04:04PM (#16874526)
        I would like to think that I am not a techno idiot - I am working on my Ph.D. in computer engineering so I have to read and review a lot of technical papers. However, I am not sure how I (or anyone else) would teach someone how to judge web pages in an entire semester, let alone a single class period.

        I have seen a couple of lists on how to judge a site. The one [cornell.edu] from Cornell has points like:
        • Is the author different than the webmaster?
        • What URL/domain is used?
        • Is it an information page or an advertisesment?
        • Modified date/is it current?
        • Are the links correct and match the page?
        Sure, these are nice - but they hardly apply everywhere. There are a lot of things in the sciences that haven't changed, so a date of 1998 hardly impacts the validity of the page. There are also a lot of old pages with broken links. Still doesn't impact their information. This happens quite a bit when you find a white paper and an organization decided to redesign their entire site. You can still find the paper through Google, but the old URL is useless.

        Same problem with requiring contact information for the author. A lot of government agencies only list the webmaster as a contact in the page footer. Does that mean the page is invalid? No. It means that government sources don't have specific authors. A USDA report is still a USDA report even if it is 5 years old, doesn't list an author and has broken links. How do we teach when the rules don't matter?

        I think the problem is people are trying to come up with rules to apply, and there are a lot of exceptions. Remember Dihydrogen Monoxide? [dhmo.org] it was a complete joke - but the site "passed" the criteria. So it must be a valid source. Right? If people were trained to think on their own, instead of being taught how to apply rules, I think we would be better off.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by krotkruton (967718)
          I agree. Since I couldn't reach either of the ets.org links, I can't see any of their sample questions, if those were even posted. Without that, how do we know that the people giving the tests can even decide the validity of a web page?

          I hate to bring it up cuz it will start the same old argument again, but since a lot of people can't decide whether or not wikipedia is a valid source, how can we trust most of them to know what's acceptable?

          A\long with that, there are a lot of schools that teach cert
  • ID10T5 (Score:4, Funny)

    by rajafarian (49150) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @02:45PM (#16872978)
    This goes well with my theory that over 50% of human beings are idiots.
    • Re:ID10T5 (Score:5, Funny)

      by Vraylle (610820) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @02:57PM (#16873198) Homepage
      I think you're being generous.

      My personal longstanding theory is that the total global I.Q. is a constant. It's just split up among an exponentially growing population.

      Every seven seconds or so I feel a brain cell trying to die.
    • Re:ID10T5 (Score:5, Funny)

      by griffjon (14945) <`GriffJon' `at' `gmail.com'> on Thursday November 16, 2006 @03:04PM (#16873354) Homepage Journal
      exactly; does this study control for people who are idiots?
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        We sent you to college so you could turn the lights off and on, not so you could throw techno/rave parties. You are so grounded.
    • Don't you mean that 50% of students are below average?

      "don't know how to judge the authoritativeness or objectivity of web sites, can't narrow down an overly broad search, and can't tailor a message to a particular audience"

      Since I read this on Slashdot, it must be true. I did a search for 'computer users are idiots', and came up with this website we're talking on.

      But I do know how to tailor a message to a particular audience, because I used a beowulf cluster of idiotic students to type this out for me. Ima
  • by realmolo (574068) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @02:46PM (#16872980)
    *Most* people are terrible at critical reading. Just terrible.

    For that matter, most people don't really like to read at all.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 16, 2006 @02:54PM (#16873144)
      Parent.modpoints++;
      Most people I know here (Suburban NY) refuse to read any work aside from 'executive' summaries & Cliff notes. I write techincal papers for a living; I would say a good 90% read the first page (the afore mentioned 'executive' summary) and proceed to fire off questions about what is covered in the other 99% of the document. We intentionally write in 'lay man''s' terms to avoid talking over many people, yet they refuse to read anything more than the first 1 - 2 pages. We have purposfully tested this idea with writing the first five pages in english, then filing in the rest with either technobable from a Markov Generator or pages from lipsum. Although this was an unimportant document, only one person actually asked what the rest of the document ment. Ouch. It's a good thing that I don't have to stay if layed off by a decent program (since that could easily generate a two page summary for these idiots).
      • by QuantumPion (805098) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @03:40PM (#16874056)
        Parent.modpoints++; Most people I know here (Suburban NY) refuse to read any work aside from 'executive' summaries & Cliff notes. I write techincal papers for a living; I would say a good 90% read the first page (the afore mentioned 'executive' summary) and proceed to fire off questions about what is covered in the other 99% of the document. We intentionally write in 'lay man''s' terms to avoid talking over many people, yet they refuse to read anything more than the first 1 - 2 pages. We have purposfully tested this idea with writing the first five pages in english, then filing in the rest with either technobable from a Markov Generator or pages from lipsum. Although this was an unimportant document, only one person actually asked what the rest of the document ment. Ouch. It's a good thing that I don't have to stay if layed off by a decent program (since that could easily generate a two page summary for these idiots).

        This comment is too long. Can someone give me an executive summary?

      • Where is "here"? Can't you just try to be at least a bit more specific?
    • I agree (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Most people are great at critical reading, like me.
    • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @03:03PM (#16873332)
      *Most* people are terrible at critical reading.
      I totally agree. For instance, most /. comments on this story fail to critique the validity of the test's questions or whether there was any bias in the study's selection of test-takers.
      • by flynt (248848) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @03:11PM (#16873452)
        Mod parent up! When a conclusion of a study is something we want to believe, in this case, "Most college students are idiots with computers and information", and this reinforces something we believe about ourselves, "I am smarter than these people", we don't question the methodology as we should. Contrast that to a study which shows something you don't want to believe, the first thing that happens, you question the methodology. Of course, my idea here has not been proven, it's just something I'm guessing.
      • Mod parent up! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Thursday November 16, 2006 @03:25PM (#16873754)
        From the .pdf :
        When constructing a presentation slide designed to persuade. . .
        -80% included irrelevant points with relevant points
        -Just 12% used only points directly related to the argument
        -8% used entirely irrelevant points

        Well DUH!!!

        When you "persuade" someone, "irrelevant points" are useful if they can be used to emotionally "persuade" someone.

        You see this all the time in political discussions.

        The problems with "testing" people is that the people who write the tests have their own biases and opinions about what is "better" or "bad". And since they write the tests, their opinions are naturally considered to be more "correct" than the people they're testing.
      • by tukkayoot (528280)
        I totally agree. For instance, most /. comments on this story fail to critique the validity of the test's questions or whether there was any bias in the study's selection of test-takers.

        Those were the first questions that popped into my mind: what exactly did these questions look like, who exactly were they testing, who exactly was doing the test taking, etc.

        Yours is one of the first commments on the story that I've read so I'm not sure yet whether these questions have been asked -- I'll have to scroll down
      • I totally agree. For instance, most /. comments on this story fail to critique the validity of the test's questions or whether there was any bias in the study's selection of test-takers.

        Actually, it's just that our critical reading skills made it instantly clear to most of us that such effort was totally unecessary, and therefore we didn't waste our time on it.

        The most important part of critical thinking is knowing when to actually bother with it.

        (Protip: Slashdot? Not so much.)

    • by Otter (3800)
      *Most* people are terrible at critical reading. Just terrible.

      And as with all of these "OMG everyone else is so teh stupid!!!" stories, it's not as if people here are especially inclined to critical thinking either when the day's swallowed-whole press release is congenial to their own snobberies.

      For example, don't you think a statement like "52 percent correctly assessed the objectivity of the sites, 65 percent correctly judged for authority" is meaningless without a bit of added context? (If you've actual

    • Exactly. I have not RTFA, but anywhere does this study have a control sample or some other baseline for comparision? How do people the in the same age demographic that are NOT in college compare? How do people who graduated at least five years ago compare? What about high school kids. I think a better study would be done in multiple phases. First, test high school students. Then when those same students have graduated high school, test them again. Compare the ones in college with the ones not in col
    • I hate all such generalisations.
    • *Most* people are terrible at critical reading. Just terrible. For that matter, most people don't really like to read at all.

      I find this entire thread greatly entertaining. I think most people are very poor at critical thinking, including critical reading skills because it is not taught in most public schools. Logic, reasoning, critical thinking, and the rhetorical method should be foundations for much of eduction, but they aren't and I have a number of hypothesis as to why. First, students equipped with

    • The link says the test's reliability is .88. At least they give a definition: that's the correlation between results on multiple administrations of the test. So a critical reader will ask what in the name of the Flying Spaghetti Monster that has to do with anything normal people call "reliability".

      Then you have to ask, if college students can't judge the objectivity and authority of a web site, how can the test administrators do it?

      For that matter, I could have some recursive fun with the parent post. If re
    • by Pichu0102 (916292)
      For that matter, most people don't really like to read at all.


      It's not that people don't like to read, it's just they don't like to read TFA.
  • So... (Score:5, Funny)

    by jfclavette (961511) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @02:46PM (#16872982)
    What's this article about ?
    • Re:So... (Score:5, Funny)

      by Trespass (225077) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @02:50PM (#16873064) Homepage
      'Those goddamn kids are so stupid today yadda yadda yadda...'

      We were all so much smarter at their age, because that's how we care to remember things.
      • I knew to avoid jumping in front of buses unlike this guy [www.cbc.ca]...

        It's not uncommon when I drive home from work to have stupid 14 yr olds jump in the middle of the road, or walk like 9 across down a road...

        Kids are stupider today than yesterday because we fear forcing them to learn shit all. Can't discipline them, can't fail them, etc, etc, etc...

        Not that kids my age weren't stupid when we were teens, just that teens today are STUPIDERERER.

        Tom
      • by bhsurfer (539137)
        Nah, my friends & I were pretty freakin' stupid in college. Come to think of it, we still are!
    • Re:So... (Score:4, Funny)

      by spellraiser (764337) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @02:53PM (#16873120) Journal
      What's this article about ?

      It seems to me that it's about purple haddocks that live in houses made of straw. I could be wrong though ...

  • by Red Flayer (890720) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @02:46PM (#16872984) Journal
    It's critical thinking skills.

    This is nothing new. Decades of teaching to standardized tests and ignoring the thought process in favor of fact regurgitation has led to this.
    • Absolutely. The skills described have as much to do with technology as they do to music appreciation. These results are all about critical thinking deficiencies. Or, put another way, proving once again how many people are sheep/lemmings/cattle looking to be led around by the nose.
    • by 77Punker (673758)
      Don't be too quick to knock all standardized tests. I don't know about the end-of-grade tests in public schools, but one look at the SAT and it's fairly plain that it's been designed to evaluate critical thinking ability.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Red Flayer (890720)
        I'm not knocking the tests themselves (though some do deserve it), I'm knocking teaching to the test. My 7th through 10th grade English Lit classes were just vocabulary classes, a complete waste of my time. One year our final exam was a friggin' crossword puzzle the teacher designed -- and a poor one, at that. I learned absolutely nothing from those classes, since I had an extensive vocabulary already.

        I was fortunate to have parents and college professors that demanded I develop critical thinking skill
    • Virginia SOL (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Overzeetop (214511) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @03:06PM (#16873380) Journal
      Yes, that's really what they call the benchmark tests, though it stands for "Standards Of Learning". They are terrific at determining how much "trivia" (for lack of a better term) can be memorized by children, and regurgitated on a test. It's gotten so bad that SOL preparation takes up a substantial portion of the learning year. I have a colleague who moved here from NY around the middle of last year, and his kids nearly flunked several of their subjects. The reason was SOL based teaching - much of it is Virginia-history specific, apparently, and having spent 4-6 years in New York schools (which, apparently, are not part of the Great State of Virginia) did not know the minutiae taught here in order to pass the standard learning tests. This year they're doing great, having had the opportunity to memorize the appropriate facts from day one. This is not the kind of learning that will benefit these kids when they enter the real world.
      • They are terrific at determining how much "trivia" (for lack of a better term) can be memorized by children, and regurgitated on a test.
        ...
        This is not the kind of learning that will benefit these kids when they enter the real world.
        You've never worked in my office, then. Trivia comes in very useful at the pub or on the links, and regurgitation is obviously a skill highly prized in those who seek to rise in management.
        • Oh, come on. When was the last time the name of the founder of Jamestown came up in casual conversation (that did not involve a Disney movie)?

          Management, you say? Well, that settles it - we all know that there's are no critical thinking in management. ;-)
    • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Thursday November 16, 2006 @03:21PM (#16873664) Homepage

      Careful, though, because there are school systems who have dismissed "regurgitation" like memorizing multiplication tables in favor of teaching "process". This results in people who can give you a general outline of problem-solving processes but can't solve problems. They neither have practice in solving problems, nor can they multiply 6x30 without a calculator.

      So for young kids, I don't think it's either teaching them "facts" nor is it teaching them "process", but instead in might be something like "forcing them to practice". Given enough practice, kids will learn to memorize important information, throw away useless trivia and info they can look up, and discover their own best processes.

      • by cvd6262 (180823)
        They neither have practice in solving problems, nor can they multiply 6x30 without a calculator.

        Let's see....

        30+30+30+30+30+30 =
        60+30+30+30+30 =
        90+30+30+30 =
        120+30+30 =
        150+30 =
        180!

        It works... Just not as efficiently.

        BTW (It's a joke.)
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Red Flayer (890720)
        So for young kids, I don't think it's either teaching them "facts" nor is it teaching them "process", but instead in might be something like "forcing them to practice".
        Like any good practical instruction, it's theory + implementation. The student must master both.
  • The findings link looks like an html document, but it redirects to a PDF file. Neat trick.

    No wonder some people are confused over this interweb business ...

  • Yes (Score:5, Funny)

    by 77Punker (673758) <spencr04@nOsPaM.highpoint.edu> on Thursday November 16, 2006 @02:49PM (#16873054)
    Real conversation

    Me: What program did you use to download all that pr0n?

    Fellow Student: Windows 98

    Me: Could you be a little more specific?

    Student: Oh, Windows 98 SE

    This stuff happens to me seemingly everyday. Don't even get me started on the argument I had with a CIS student over whether USB 2.0 is better than USB 1.1
  • Yes. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ScentCone (795499) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @02:49PM (#16873060)
    Are College Students Techno Idiots?

    If, by "college students," we mean "most college students," just like we mean "most people" when we ask, "are people techno idiots?"

    Honestly, answers to a question like that, in this venue, are going to be so distorted by the abnormal slashdot nerd density as to be meaningless when talking about a wider demographic. My personal experience with most college students is that they are just as much in the "it's just magic, and it works" (as well as the "my computer is so slow! it won't even run the new free stuff I download any more!") camp as the average non-college-student person.

    The "technical" stuff with which they're comfortable (as in, feel mastery thereof) are the dedicated-purpose devices that don't really let you hose them up (phones, cameras, simple MP3 players, etc). But they don't know how or why any of it works any more than they know how or why their car, their democracy, their adrenal glands, or the free WiFi at Panera works. And I'm not just talking about the liberal arts majors.
    • Re:Yes. (Score:4, Funny)

      by MightyYar (622222) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @02:55PM (#16873156)
      Frankly, I'm astonished that it broke 50%. I think we should be celebrating... no I'm not kidding. If this study is correct, it has significantly RAISED my expectations.
      • I completely agree -- and I'm a college student myself! The stupidity in general, and technological stupidity in particular, is astounding even here at a seemingly "good" school.

    • I remember my freshman year at Penn State. I met a few people on my floor who wanted to major in comp sci. Unfortunately, they didn't have any idea what C, java, etc were, and one didn't even own a computer. They admitted they were only majoring in comp sci because that was where the big money was. This was in 2000. Luckily. Penn State had a specific major for these types of people -- information technology science (or as I liked to call it, a b.s. in frontpage).
      • by danpsmith (922127)
        What urks me is the fact that these people are probably the ones getting good jobs and becoming managers. While people like myself who actually know a thing or two about computers but don't have a "Information Technology Science" bullshit degree from a major university don't ever get a chance. (I have a BS in Comp Sci from a four year school but it's not Penn State...and for some reason Computer Science doesn't seem to have anything to do with these "technology" jobs who all want BS title degrees and cert
  • by fishdan (569872) * on Thursday November 16, 2006 @02:50PM (#16873062) Homepage Journal
    And I've felt guilty about the fact that some people who should not be taking distance learning are signing up for courses. I've also been irritated by the repeat calls to the helpdesk on topics that it is reasonable to expect a "distance learner" to know how to do.

    As a result we developed an information literacy class that is a required component for taking a Distance Learning class, and it is of course contained within our (home grown) Distance Learning platform. If you have not passed IL, you can't get to any of your other classes.

    Because we've got a home grown app, we were able to put in alot of specific things (how to submit an assignment, how to send an email to a specific address, how to upload a file, how to download a file and then find it again). It's the way of things. You can't blame the users if they are incompetent. You either have to ensure they are competent, or block them from using the system, and give them an opportunity to learn and demonstrate their competancy

    • by Aladrin (926209)
      I think the main problem there is that as a society, we tell everyone that 'you can do anything, if you put your mind to it' and that's simply not true. Everyone has areas in which they excel, and areas in which they fail badly. If you accept that about yourself, and work with it, you'll be much happier. Instead, we teach them to try the very things they will most likely fail at.

      Some of them make it. Don't get me wrong. But most, including some of the 'successes', are miserable about it.

      I'm am not a cr
    • by kabocox (199019)
      Because we've got a home grown app, we were able to put in alot of specific things (how to submit an assignment, how to send an email to a specific address, how to upload a file, how to download a file and then find it again). It's the way of things. You can't blame the users if they are incompetent. You either have to ensure they are competent, or block them from using the system, and give them an opportunity to learn and demonstrate their competancy

      You might as well do it for your computer labs as well. I
    • Personally, I've had more questions about how to use Distance Learning software from teachers than students. Most of the students have at least a decent amount of Internet experience and understand how to upload a file or post on a web forum; even someone who spends all day playing Quake or posting on MySpace will pick that up.

      Many of the teachers (generally in English or Social Studies), on the other hand, have trouble with even the most basic functions. Worse, they often blame their students (or the softw
  • by garcia (6573) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @02:53PM (#16873106) Homepage
    The findings show that students don't know how to judge the authoritativeness or objectivity of web sites, can't narrow down an overly broad search, and can't tailor a message to a particular audience.

    1. Isn't everything on see on the Internet true?

    2. Google figures out everything you need to know anyway.

    3. U mean thy use txt speech insted of reg typng on tsts?

    ---

    In all seriousness, I'm not surprised by anything these days. I work for a two year college and there are programs that offer money to "college ready" high school students (no remedial work necessary) and there was a HS principal (this week) that when told about the program said, "none of our students would qualify, don't even bother to bring it up."

    Why should these studies even worry about topics like this when students aren't even placing into 100/1000 level courses when they "graduate" high school?
    • Actually, I'm wondering how they measure judging the authoritativeness of a web site.

      There are a number of things I could write about and slap them up on the internet for people to read, and while they would be quite factual and well written, someone not familiar with the subject would have a hard time telling if that were the case. After all, there's no reason to trust me -- most people haven't a clue who I am. And even if I were to add references, I could either make them to general works, or to obscure
      • There are a number of things I could write about and slap them up on the internet for people to read, and while they would be quite factual and well written, someone not familiar with the subject would have a hard time telling if that were the case. After all, there's no reason to trust me -- most people haven't a clue who I am. And even if I were to add references, I could either make them to general works, or to obscure works that most people wouldn't bother to track down for verification. The problem is

        • What you say is entirely true, but it also applies to printed works and academic papers.

          It does, but with printed material there tends to be that chain of trust in existence. Most people are willing to put some trust in Addison-Wesley or O'Reilly publishing to not put out junk (unfortunately this isn't the case everywhere -- see Apress' recent Practical OCaml for an example... whoof!). And a lot of the journals and conference proceedings have a higher sense of trust as they tend to be peer-reviewed and ev
  • I been going to school part-time for the last five years to learn programming. (This is my second tour through college as I got my General Education associate degree in 1994.) A lot of programming students will learn only what the instructors put in front of them. Very few students have the initiative to read or program outside of the classroom. What's taught in the class may meet the academic requirements but I wouldn't try to get a job based on that. I've told recruiters that I understand programming conc
    • when I first started school there were about 600-700 kids in computer science. after the first year we were down to 300. when the 3rd year started we were down to around 150. by the time I graduated, my class was about 100 kids.

      my point is that if kids can't program, they should be given f's so they can either learn they're not cut out for programming or they can start working harder. computer science is a lot more than just clicking around on a computer...

      "Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the univer

      • by hal2814 (725639)
        "computer science is a lot more than just clicking around on a computer..."

        Computer Science is also a lot more than just programming. There are plenty of theory guys who aren't all that sharp when it comes to actual programming but very much belong in Computer Science. I'm not saying they shouldn't be given F's in programming-specific classes if they deserve it, but there are plenty of CS degree paths that don't do much more than entry level programming and that is a good thing.
  • Digital generation (Score:5, Interesting)

    by porkThreeWays (895269) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @02:55PM (#16873154)
    That's about right. I always see these news stories about the digital generation and generation myspace, etc, etc. They'll show some kid downloading music, chatting on AIM, going on myspace, and playing some game in flash on a website. The parents go on how great he can multitask and how great he is on the computer, blah, blah, blah.

    The truth is, many kids just find a few things they really like and latch onto them. They don't really understand any sort of computing fundamentals. They understand how to go on AIM and myspace all day. When faced with a computer intensive task that relies on critical thinking and not just keystroke habits, they fall flat on their face.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by archen (447353)
      As an extension of what you're saying, I was discussing with my wife about digital knowledge vs age. The former joke used to be if you didn't know how to do it, then you pay some kid down the street to show you how to use your computer. I think we're over the "it's new" hump and that's no longer a given. She used to say her little brother (he's 3) would be a computer wizard that would run circles around us all one day, but I think she's seen enough kids now days who are just point and click masters who d
    • keystroke habits

      Kids these days have keystroke habits? I don't think I've seen anyone other than the handful of compsci geeks at my school who knows how to use keyboard shortcuts. It's immensely painful watching someone switch between the mouse and the keyboard every second, especially when they're entering data into a long web form or something like that.

  • Reminds me of hooking up a five port switch once for this lady. She points at it and says, "is that the Internet?"

    • remember (Score:3, Insightful)

      by geekoid (135745)
      to users the UI is the system.
      or more broadly, what they can see is the system.
      For her intentions, the most probabaly correct answer is yes.
      Technically correct? no. Is it correct for practical purposes? yes.

      At least she grasped it was something outside her computer.
  • I'm curious if majors had a significant correlation. At first I'd expect electrical/computer engineering/science majors to fair well. However when you factor in that this is ofter more of a test of research skills and critical thinking, than I can see that helping liberal arts majors as well.
  • I tried to view the sample questions on their site, but I couldn't...Despite the fact that I have Flash 9, it kept trying to redirect me to "get flash". I'll have to see at least a few of the examples before I regard this study as authoritative.

    A study done by PB Inc has found that 92% of Americans have trouble determining if surveys and studies are trustworthy, a figure that has tripled in the past six months.
  • I went to a school that ranks in the top five on Wired's Most Wired Campuses list. I work for a company that builds advanced computer systems with capabilities far beyond the average joe's imagination. Since my youngest days I have been surrounded by computers and technologically astute people. All of these intelligent people with vast amounts knowledge and experience yet, when it comes to things like emails, I get nothing but urban legends and forwards, even after I debunk thier tripe with snopes.com. If t
    • Unfortunatly, this way of dealing with a problem is not taught at school. It is also unfortunate that it would be difficult to do so without real world application.

      Obviously, the solution is to make all gradeschool students work at helpdesks!

  • They start to think that everything on they hear on TV is real or true, only this generation is one that was raised on the internet instead....
  • make something easy enough for monkeys to use and monkeys will end up using it.
  • by borkus (179118) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @03:07PM (#16873398) Homepage
    I was an English major and made my way into IT through the workplace. I constantly encounter situations where I use my college skills to write and speak clearly. In fact, I'm struck by how well those skills have aged at this point in my career versus the skills of IT/CS majors my age (I'm 40).

    So, for Computer Science/IT/MIS majors, I'd recommend the following -

    • Take at least one class a year outside of your field that requires writing assignments. It can be in Literature, History, Economics,Psychology - whatever interests you - but learning about diverse subjects and being able to write in response keeps your writing skills honed and your abstract reasoning skills sharp. Also, learning outside of your major may help apply your technical skills to real life domains.
    • Take a Public Speaking class. Some degree programs require it, but anyone who graduates from a university should be able to give a coherent oral presentation. Most Public Speaking classes aren't just about the mechanics of speaking (vocal projection, enunciation, body language and eye contact) but also how to organize your thoughts and shape a presentation for a given audience and time frame. People won't see the value in your ideas if they don't understand what you're talking about.
    • As a Comp Sci major, I'll have you know that I deal with Communications and English majors nearly every day.

      They also use their college skills to communicate clearly when they ask me, "Do you want fries with that?". ...laugh - it's a joke!

    • No offense, but as an English/CS/Philos major, I understand that there are roles for people who have the ability to both do the nerd thing, and do the communication thing, but there are also roles for people who simply do the communication thing, and people who simply do the nerd thing.

      To make the facile assumption that everyone needs to be able to do both is to miss the point of hiring specialists in the first place.

      Frankly, in my experience, technical people and communication people both believe that thei
  • It's the same writing and research skills they're missing, but ON A COMPUTER!
  • by scenestar (828656) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @03:15PM (#16873514) Homepage Journal
    Everyone who listens to techno is an idiot.

    Oh wait, you meant the OTHER techno
  • Don't they realise that there's an objective way of precisely measuring the objectivity of a web site that every right-thinking (or did I mean left-thinking?) academic agrees with? Shame on them. It's not like objectivity is something you could dispute over.
  • I mean how many people buy the National Enquirer believing its a newspaper?
    How many people watch Fox news thinking its just the same as CBS used to be?
    Eric von Danikens chariot of the Gods was a best seller.
    People believe George W Bush is just folks from Texas.

    These results are pretty good compared with the results for old media.

  • We're too visual (Score:4, Informative)

    by cvd6262 (180823) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @03:32PM (#16873900)
    I'll point us back to a couple of /. posts.

    First, Nature found that people judge websites in a few milliseconds:
    http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/01/1 7/0342224 [slashdot.org]

    Then Harvard and Cal find that phishing works because people judge too much on the visual presentation:
    http://it.slashdot.org/it/06/03/30/1556226.shtml [slashdot.org]

    Now we see that people are poor judges of content. Quite close to A + B = C.
  • Maybe I have no ICT skills, but I've looked at the stuff on their website, and I call BS on their assessment. How ironic that I find that their study that says people like me have no information skills calls the information the give total crap.

    Take a look at their flash demo. I think they pull this out of their asses pretty much. Not to say that any college students (myself included) do have critical thinking skills, but let's not get our knickers in a knot.

  • ..of Warcraft. This is not anything surprising, and is not limited to those tubes on the internets. As people are constantly bombarded with spin or outright falsification, it becomes increasingly difficult to actually discern what is legitimate, objective information from what is not. Mass media constantly and actively subverts peoples' critical reasoning skills in order to convince them to buy an item or believe a statement based on limited or dubious claims. They purposely subvert and abuse data in o
  • I remember a random conversation in an FPS I used to play (counterstrike):

    During a discussion about old computers:

    Me: I still have my old 486 from 1994.
    Random person: 486?! I'm still using a 333!!
  • ..of Warcraft.

    This is not anything surprising, and is not limited to those tubes on the internets. As people are constantly bombarded with spin or outright falsification, it becomes increasingly difficult to actually discern what is legitimate, objective information from what is not.

    Mass media constantly and actively subverts peoples' critical reasoning skills in order to convince them to buy an item or believe a statement based on limited or dubious claims. They purposely subvert and abuse data in o

  • As a college tutor who has tutored people for mathematics, CS, IT, and English, let me say that I think the results are overly conservative. I'd say the levels of illiteracy are much, much higher, if the sample I've encountered is any example. We're talking about 3rd year students who can't even write a descriptive paper on their daily activities; you know, a fucking journal entry.
  • I had this conversation recently:

    Me: I'm going to remote into your computer. Can you go to logmein123.com?
    Person: Log-you-in...
    Me: No, log-me-in...
    Person: Log-you-in...
    Me: No, it's a website.
    Person: Oh, you don't need the "www"?
    Me: You can, www.logmein...
    Person: logmein.com
    Me: No, logmein123.com
    Person: Oh, ok, logmein123.com
  • I think this is well illustrated in the bullshit questions I get about error messages. People see anything out of the norm, on a computer, or not, and automatically assume that it is beyond their comprehension. I get dozens of calls each week, "Hi, I had an error, is there something wrong with the server?"

    For one thing, what is "the server"? What do you mean, were you loading a web page, and a message popped up? Were you trying to check your email? Help me out here. More often than not, I get a "well, the s
  • by mogrify (828588) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @04:11PM (#16874622) Homepage

    I taught technology at a middle school for a year, unfortunately... I remember spending a few days trying to teach them how to really use a search engine. The general idea was that you should:

    1. Write a sentence or paragraph that states the question you are trying to answer
    2. Go through and underline key words
    3. Plug those words into a search engine

    We also went over how search engines work, and I taught them to think of words that would appear on a page that held the answer they were looking for. For instance, if the question is, "How much does the moon weigh?" then you might search for the word "tons" -- even though it's not in the actual question, it would certainly be in the answer.

    I thought they had it, so I made up a list of questions and let them loose on Google. And what did they do, after all that? They typed the entire question, verbatim, into the search engine box.

    Most of them were also unable to distinguish ads from actual content; they would click on them indiscriminately. The fake error box ads got them every time. And it wasn't for lack of experience; some of them spent just as much time on the Internet as I did, but still they had no mental filters.

    On the other hand, they were extremely good at finding all kinds of inappropriate content. We used to have races - they would look at as many dirty-joke-skateboarding-crash-video-rap-artist-bi o-flash-game-and-other-Internet-crapware sites as they could, and I would monitor the router logs and block sites as fast as I could manage. It kept me pretty busy, but by the end of the year I had a great blacklist.

    I would expect this kind of competency from middle schoolers, but by college you should know better. If you can write an English paper, you should be able to think critically enough about a topic to Google it effectively.

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