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Are College Students Techno Idiots? 297

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 garcia ( 6573 ) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @02:53PM (#16873106)
    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?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 16, 2006 @02:54PM (#16873144)
    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).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @03:15PM (#16873518) Journal
    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 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 Korin43 ( 881732 ) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @03:58PM (#16874406) Homepage
    Especially considering that the library people who are supposed to be teaching them are all idiots. We had to do that in my sophomore year in high school, and our librarian taught us such useful things as "Google uses boolean search terms [google.com]" and "The [newscientist.com] internet [ibm.com] is [sciam.com] never [britannica.com] reliable [nytimes.com]".
  • 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.

  • Re:Mod parent up! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by daviddennis ( 10926 ) <david@amazing.com> on Thursday November 16, 2006 @05:30PM (#16876054) Homepage
    I'm uncomfortable with this argument by authority. People who are knowledgeable about a subject have their own biases, and sometimes they show pretty clearly.

    For example, the report gives points to people who point out that an EDU or GOV site is inherently less biased than a .COM site. This is wistful thinking on the part of people who are marinated in the academic environment.

    Actually, it's fairly well known that academics have a left-wing bias. I spent a very interesting year working in an academic environment, and can confirm this to be true through direct observation. Government, of course, has a bias in favour of the programs it's referencing. If I wanted to find an impartial take on the Social InSecurity programme, for example, I don't think SSA.GOV would be the right place to start.

    Finally, their mostly content-free slide presentation does not inspire confidence, at least in me. And the Flash "Demo" doesn't allow me to try it out; it just demonstrates it in action. Boring, and the use of audio makes it over-long and far more tedious than it would have otherwise been. Thes are not the information management and presentation skills I expect from a world-class organization - especially since far less complex and easier to develop systems would have worked better.


Forty two.