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Education Technology

College Freshmen Struggle With Tech Literacy 298

snow_man writes to mention an article on the E-Commerce News site about techno-literacy problems with incoming college freshmen. Some schools, like CSU, are planning on including a technology comprehension test alongside their English and Math evaluations for new students. From the article: "Not all of Generation M can synthesize the loads of information they're accessing, educators say. 'They're geeky, but they don't know what to do with their geekdom,' said Barbara O'Connor, a Sacramento State communications studies professor involved in a nationwide effort to hone students' computer-research skills. On a recent nationwide test to measure their technological 'literacy' -- their ability to use the Internet to complete class assignments -- only 49 percent of the test-takers correctly evaluated a set of Web sites for objectivity, authority and timeliness. Only 35 percent could correctly narrow an overly broad Internet search."
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College Freshmen Struggle With Tech Literacy

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  • by treat ( 84622 ) on Sunday December 24, 2006 @12:41AM (#17351776)
    At first I suspected it was because I've been doing searches since the days of archie. But more and more I've come to realize that some people just have no skill when it comes to doing a web search. I think it's primarily due to poor reading comprehension and poor reading speed.

    These people who can't do searches, they click on results where the summary clearly shows that it is not the desired material. If they had read every word, it would have been clear.

    It's a basic literacy problem. Americans have really poor literacy. The destruction of the concept that parents should educate their children, combined with an increasingly poor public education system, has left us with a generation too illiterate to do a web search.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TubeSteak ( 669689 )
      But more and more I've come to realize that some people just have no skill when it comes to doing a web search.
      I second that.
      I know people that are somewhat web savvy, but couldn't Google their way out of a paper bag.

      And it's not even a smart vs stupid kinda thing.
      Some people just have no clue wtf they're doing.
      • I know people that are somewhat web savvy, but couldn't Google their way out of a paper bag

        But are you any more effective using Google when you search outside your own field?

        The traditional card catalog gave you three ways to begin: author, title, subject. in most public and school libraries, books for children, books for young adults, would be cataloged separately.

        The Britannica, often maligned here, has given two centuries of thought to the problem of organizing knowledge in ways that would make it mo

        • by mangu ( 126918 ) on Sunday December 24, 2006 @05:33AM (#17352688)
          But are you any more effective using Google when you search outside your own field?


          Yes, I am. Inside my own field I have better options than Google, i.e. I have my own library, notes, etc. But for subjects with which I am less familiar, my favorite method is to look it up in Google, followed by the Wikipedia, although this order could be reversed. It's mostly the convenience in my browser (konqueror) where I can type "gg:" followed by the search string to go directly to Google that sets my preference.


          The Propaedia, or outline of the EB, the Syntopicon, the index of ideas and themes which framed the Great Books of the Western World.


          The Propaedia is the most useless book in my EB, I have never used it for anything. It could be useful, perhaps, if one wanted to start a methodical study of some subject, but that's what textbooks are for. Let's open the Propaedia at random, here we are: page 535, Division II, section 825-D The religions of Korea. I get ten pointers to articles, the first of which is 10:530-534, which is, naturally, "Korean Religion" in the Macropaedia. If I'm going to read that article, I'll certainly find other pointers to look over, I don't need the Propaedia for that.


          I would generally classify an encyclopedia as a middle step between the web and a textbook. For a quick idea on a subject, I search the web, for a better understanding I read the Britannica, for in-depth knowledge I get a book. For me, the web is a much improved substitute to library catalog search.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by dangitman ( 862676 )
        Do you have a link to instructions for getting out of a paper bag? I couldn't find any through Google.
    • by ivan256 ( 17499 ) on Sunday December 24, 2006 @12:51AM (#17351852)
      The destruction of the concept that parents should educate their children

      That's the entire problem right there. People have come to expect that the government is going to do that job for them, when really it is their responsibility to make sure their child learns. A typical child's success learning to read or write has little to with how much money the local school has, and everything to do with whether the parents culture is one of reading and teaching, and the parents career is one that allows for that.
      • by nido ( 102070 ) <nido56 AT yahoo DOT com> on Sunday December 24, 2006 @01:28AM (#17352012) Homepage
        That's the entire problem right there. People have come to expect that the government is going to do that job [educate their children] for them, ...

        Ah yes, the classic bait-and-switch technique. Government: "we're going to educate the children now, so every child gets a chance at developing to their full potential." Meanwhile, they're building an alternate set of "education railroad tracks" that lead to a land where illiteracy is the norm and 'the masses' (We the People) are easy to trick and control. Government goons take over the train's engine and throw the switch, all while proclaiming that all their schools need are a few superficial fixes to make them work right.

        Maybe if I hadn't wasted all that time in the government's schools my analogy would be more coherent. John Gatto [johntaylorgatto.com] is very articulate in his trashing of the government school concept. Be sure to read (if you can, that is) /The Underground History of American Education/, and The Seven Lesson Schoolteacher [newciv.org].
        • It's a long time since I've researched it, but the stuff I found was mostly damning of the National Education Association, the teacher's union. It takes an incredibly serious f*#kup to get fired, and the education requirements have been lowered considerably from standards in the past.

          The sites you linked have the feel of a conspiracy theorist type site. A lot of the arguments on the gatto site appear to be of the handwaving type, I think trying to convince me to buy their book. That's a real smooth one,
        • by dangitman ( 862676 ) on Sunday December 24, 2006 @02:35AM (#17352218)

          Maybe if I hadn't wasted all that time in the government's schools my analogy would be more coherent. John Gatto [johntaylorgatto.com] is very articulate in his trashing of the government school concept.

          So, we trashh the government schools. What then? Who educates the people who can't afford a private education?

          • by nido ( 102070 ) <nido56 AT yahoo DOT com> on Sunday December 24, 2006 @02:44AM (#17352266) Homepage
            Who educates the people who can't afford a private education?

            My mother's parents couldn't afford to send her to Kindergarten (in 1950's Texas, Kindergarten cost extra), so they sent her to a caretaker's instead. It was cheaper than kindergarten, in that it allowed her mother to work full time.

            Mom was bored out of her little mind at the caretaker's. With a little help from some slightly older children, she taught herself to read. But she learned a much more important lesson: If there was anything at all she wanted to learn, it was her responsibility to teach herself.

            Government schools hurt children because they teach children that all knowledge comes from a higher authority.

            Gatto gives examples of notable americans who educated themselves in an early chapter in his Underground History [johntaylorgatto.com].
          • by linguae ( 763922 )

            So, we trashh the government schools. What then? Who educates the people who can't afford a private education?

            What if schools were privately owned but the tuition of the students were subsidized by the government? You know, kind of like how the federal government gives grants to students from lower-income families to cover college costs, public or private? The poor will still be able to go to school, but the schools are no longer government owned. Supporting the privatization of education is not the sam

            • by dangitman ( 862676 ) on Sunday December 24, 2006 @03:11AM (#17352336)

              The poor will still be able to go to school, but the schools are no longer government owned.

              So, how would the ownership being private make any difference to the quality of education? It would probably just end up costing the government a lot more money, and a bunch of shonky institutions would spring up to suck off the government teat, with little concern for quality education.

              It also raises problems - like government money being spent on schools which might violate separation of Church and State, for example. What's wrong with improving government schools? I don't see why the concept of the government owning schools is bad in itself. Privatization is also not a guaranteed cure for poor education. There are plenty of terrible private schools out there.

              • by tomjen ( 839882 )
                The teori would be that the private schools would be competing with each other, thus providing the best posible education.
                • But this is the real world, where things don't actually work that way.
                • by jb.hl.com ( 782137 ) <joe@PLANCKjoe-ba ... minus physicist> on Sunday December 24, 2006 @06:39AM (#17352874) Homepage Journal
                  In the UK, they rejigged the NHS a bit, introducing an "internal market", where hospitals would be in competition with one another and would bid against each other for things.

                  From Wikipedia:
                  In 1990, the National Health Service & Community Care Act (in England) defined this "internal market", whereby Health Authorities ceased to run hospitals but "purchased" care from their own or other authorities' hospitals. Certain GPs became "fund holders" and were able to purchase care for their patients. The "providers" became independent trusts, which encouraged competition but also increased local differences.

                  What happened was that nobody provided the best healthcare, they provided the cheapest healthcare possible, fund holders bought that healthcare (where corners had obviously been cut) and the hospitals got less funding because they could "provide" "healthcare" so cheaply.

                  If you want another example of private ownership completely fucking up a formerly public service in the name of profit, then I invite you to read up on British Rail and its dismantling, and its replacement with a system of about 348420 "competing" train companies sharing the same track and none of the maintenance duties, where train companies run services in the cheapest possible way (usually meaning hell for passengers) and collect government subsidies for fucking up the service even further.

                  Did "competition" help the NHS or British Rail? No, it fucked them up, subjecting them to undue internal and external pressures. My point is this: FREE MARKETS AND COMPETITION ARE NOT A PANACEA. If you are providing a public service then trying to fit that public service into a free market model, or trying to make it make a profit, simply will not work without some drastic corner cutting.
        • I think Hanlon's Razor is more applicable:

          Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.
        • by Conanymous Award ( 597667 ) on Sunday December 24, 2006 @06:59AM (#17352918)
          Finland, with its public schools, has one of the best literacy rates and most lauded school systems in the world. The problem is not the fact that it's the gummint that runs things. It's just how they run it. You can do things well or you can fsck it all up.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by xenocide2 ( 231786 )
        Which of course is why the PTA meetings are always empty and impotent. And Parent-Teacher conferences ignored. Lets not overlook the facts, even when we can just make them up to support a Libertarian agenda instead!
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by XorNand ( 517466 ) *
          I had to read your comment four times before I understood it was sarcastic. I don't know how things work in Kansas, but my mother is a third-grade teacher in a less-affluent part of Toledo. In a class of more than 20 students, it's very rare that more than four or five parents bother attending parent-teacher conferences. Heck, it's pretty common for students to show up at the beginning of the year without so much as a pencil to their name. Parents have learned to abdicate way, way too much of their responsi
      • by Venik ( 915777 ) on Sunday December 24, 2006 @01:51AM (#17352088)

        People have come to expect that the government is going to do that job for them...

        Sweden and Russia and two good examples of how a government can achieve excellent results by actively developing and implementing common standards in education. Parents, who themselves grew up in the TV-watching culture, are unlikely to encourage their children to read. Only the government, through a well-planned national campaign, can break this cycle. The way to a better public education system is not throwing more money at the problem. I agree with you here. I think the answer is in further standardization of curricula, textbooks, teaching and testing methods, introduction of uniforms in public schools, and a better system for evaluating professional competency of the faculty. Higher salaries for teachers is where the extra money should go.

      • and everything to do with whether the parents culture is one of reading and teaching, and the parents career is one that allows for that.

        So, there's no way to help a child that didn't grow up in a household with such a culture? How are parents who weren't educated supposed to create such a culture?

        Something sounds fishy about this idea, because there was a time when there was no such thing as reading and writing. So clearly, someone had to learn to read and write without being raised by parents who did.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 24, 2006 @01:14AM (#17351952)
      Have you been to a public high school lately? Half the kids don't speak Enlish, much less read or write it. With 'no child left behind' the teachers have to cater to the slowest part of the class, while the rest are left to their own devices. A signle disorderly student (that belongs to a juvie hall) wrecks the educational process for 20-30 other people, and the teachers can do NOTHING (you can't use red pens anymore, much less give the turd a four-across-the-eyes or expell him, and their parents that should be doing the job just plain don't give a fuck).

      Even worse, colleges will not take kids with poor education, preferring to enroll foreign students instead. Have you wondered why you see so many aliens on campuses? Well, that's because they are better than our failing public education system can produce.

      And the poor American kids are left in a hole with only two ways out: army or meth cooking.

      And it will take radical measures to fix this growing prlobem.
      • Have you wondered why you see so many aliens on campuses?

        I've never seen an alien on campus. If you are seeing them, perhaps you should alert Mulder and Scully?

    • It's a basic literacy problem. Americans have really poor literacy.

      I be to differ with you. I think it's a problem of "No Child left behind." This policy leads to teachers "faking" results to get more funding and the deadly "I co not care attitude", which kills morale.

    • I think it's primarily due to poor reading comprehension and poor reading speed.

      If schools worldwide are anything like here, it's the former but not the latter. Kids are taught somewhere from 10-14 the basics of speed reading. If they manage to pick up a few points out of text they're given to speed-read, then they're marked high, pass, and end up learning to use the skill in all their schooling.

      Which would be good if it were taught well, but it isn't. All too often the testing process involves little more
    • by Simon80 ( 874052 )
      It's worse than you think:
    • On the other hand, if you are net-literate some people will suddenly get mentally paralyzed and expect you to take over. I've seen this happen dozens (if not hundreds) of times.

      It gets very amusing when you have two geeks competing, especially if one of them is a poseur and unable to defer to someone else that has better skills. I'm no genius, but I know when I should STFU and watch.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 24, 2006 @12:41AM (#17351780)
    This sort of topic has come up before, and the conclusion that should be drawn is the same -- this situation has little to do with technology, and a lot to do with lack of basic critical thinking skills.

    As long as US schools (for what it's worth, I don't necessarily know if it's a lot better elsewhere) continue to fail in teaching critical thinking skills properly, early enough to make a difference that is, then people will continue to be clueless when it comes to the sort of problems highlighted. Again, it's not a technology problem, but an educational one, which in fact is basically a symptom of the current values of our society and their effect on education. But that's another story altogether...
    • by INT_QRK ( 1043164 ) on Sunday December 24, 2006 @01:37AM (#17352040)
      Reminds me of a political debate that I frequently found myself engaging to defend my funding when I ran a military technical school back in the 90's. The story went something like this: "Kids today are born knowing about computers! Classroom training is expensive and redundant! Computer based training is more efficient and cost effective!" The fallacy, of course is the opening gamut. Kids then and today (first hand experience -- I put three of my own kids through college) mostly know about how to manipulate a mouse and navigate basic menus -- not the same as "knowing about computers," as in, understanding architectures, languages, logic, etc.. Trial and error in redoing questions until "Thats right!" appears does not critical thinking make or even promote. Another problem is that kids often have trouble maintaining focus on text of length greater than about a half-web page. At least a good instructor can detect a confused look as s/he pans the classroom, ask a focused question to check for comprehension, and recursively present examples, anecdotes, and analogies that eventually may wear away the confusion. I concur completely with the need to reemphasize critical thinking in the schools -- first step is to get rid of the idea of the education major and have CS majors teach CS, math majors teach math, engineers teach...
      • by Descalzo ( 898339 ) on Sunday December 24, 2006 @03:07AM (#17352326) Journal
        first step is to get rid of the idea of the education major and have CS majors teach CS, math majors teach math, engineers teach...

        In my state (Utah), you can not teach in a high school without a degree in the subject you are to teach. They have bent the rules, but in the past couple of years it has become much more strict. I understand that there is still some bending of the rules in small, rural schools, but it is still discouraged.

        In Utah, if you major in education, you can teach grades 1-8. In practice (at least in my county) that doesn't include math. If you want to teach anything higher than Math 6 you have to go back to school and get an endorsement. Also, if you major in Special Education (usually dual major with Education) you can teach special classes K-12. Minors or emphases you take in college can count for something as well. For example, a Spanish minor might get you certified to teach up through grade 9 in Spanish, and a Math emphasis would certify you to teach Pre-Algebra (or maybe it's Algebra 1).

        If you majored in Math or something like that and later decide to get a teaching certificate, you have to go back to school to take some Education classes. You learn about stuff like content area literacy, classroom management, and so forth.

        So my point is that you already have what you want: CS majors are already teaching CS, etc., at least in secondary schools in Utah. I think implementing that sort of thing in elementary schools would be very difficult.

        • That's great and stuff (required qualifications), but a true teacher knows how to interest and engage the students, not just rely on training.
      • Not even knowing about the insides of a computer is enough. Often my colleagues fail to find the right info through Google while I do, and I'm talking about an IT department here.
        Critical thinking has to be learned in every aspect involving information, whether it be online, tv, books, magazines, other people, etc..
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Swimport ( 1034164 )
      ...with lack of basic critical thinking skills

      That and lack of knowledge. Hard to find subjects are best found in my experience with the "exact phrase" searches using the quotes and -minus to remove common unwanted results. Of the people I help with their computers I've never seen any of them use these. Or click the advanced search to learn about them. Most people just type How do I do X, and like most things with computers, just expect it to work.
  • "They're geeky, but they don't know what to do with their geekdom," then... "They take at face value whatever shows up at the top of the list as the best stuff." Does "geeky" mean "1337 skr1p7 k1dd13" to these people? Because that's about what comes to mind when I read this.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      I take "geeky" in this context to mean "uses electronic devices frequently", like a PC, mobile phone, or game console. Just because they use "tech" devices does not mean they understand how they actually work. A calculator is an example. Many are taught how to use one, but have no concept of the math involved. An example that would include people in earlier generations is how to calculate a square root, without a calculator. Overall, the percentage of people who critically analyze the information they
      • Re:Uh... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Lord Crc ( 151920 ) on Sunday December 24, 2006 @03:34AM (#17352386)
        Just because they use "tech" devices does not mean they understand how they actually work. A calculator is an example. Many are taught how to use one, but have no concept of the math involved.

        Indeed. Here in Norway, there's an ongoing debate about the rather appalling math level of our school kids. I'm certain it has a LOT to do with calculators. All they learn now is how to punch numbers into a calculator and get some result.

        I saw this first hand when I tried to help my girlfriend take some slightly more advanced math. If she encountered an assignment where she was unsure of how to proceed, she would grab the calculator and examine each and every button on it, trying to find that "magic button". In most cases the assignment could be solved perfectly without a calculator.

        I like my previous math professor's attitude. When solving some problem on the blackboard, he could say "and then you can punch this into a calculator and get some number, but that's not the important part".
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by tomjen ( 839882 )
          Hmm I agree with your professor - but, and that is a big but - for people other than math majors, the number is the most important thing.

          I knew thought I should write this, but people need to be better to do math in their heads. An example would be the 6 question of this test from moronland that fooled me earlier this day http://moronland.net/moronia/moron/1077/ [moronland.net]
  • by creimer ( 824291 ) on Sunday December 24, 2006 @12:42AM (#17351788) Homepage
    Generation M is what? I thought Generation Z was up next. At least, it's not Generation 2.0+ (TM).
  • Easy. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 24, 2006 @12:43AM (#17351792)
    What is so hard about "porn -midget -horse -gay"?
  • Too true (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I once worked in a campus computer lab, and was amazed at the lack of technical literacy among some students. I watched one girl struggle with Internet Explorer crashing, and I told her to try Safari (the lab had all Macs), and she acted surprised. "You mean that I can access the Web without using the Internet?"

    Then I'd turn around and watch some middle-aged ladies (this was at a community college) whiz through Photoshop. :-)
  • by dircha ( 893383 ) on Sunday December 24, 2006 @12:44AM (#17351808)
    I would be surprised if freshmen were much better at evaluating and weighing objectivity and authority in traditional sources such as books, journals, and newspapers.

    And I would like to know the criteria for the "correct" evaluation of the objectivity and authority of these sources.

    "Only 35 percent could narrow an overly broad internet search"

    Yeah, and what percent of incoming freshmen new how to narrow an overly broad search using whatever ancient, proprietary electronic card catalog system the school useswithout being taught? Probably less than 35%.
    • And I would like to know the criteria for the "correct" evaluation of the objectivity and authority of these sources.

      Look here:
      http://www.ala.org/ala/acrl/acrlpubs/crlnews/backi ssues1998/julyaugust6/teachingundergrads.htm [ala.org]

      Those are the criteria (or some variation thereof) that most librarians try to explain to you during whatever limited time they get with incoming freshman.

      Personally, I think they should add a 6th criteria: Does the information match other 'credible' sources.

    • Yeah, and what percent of incoming freshmen new how to narrow an overly broad search using whatever ancient, proprietary electronic card catalog system the school uses without being taught? Probably less than 35%.

      The difference is that internet searches are now common every day tasks performed by regular people. Not just academics, not just research librarians, but everybody. It's the modern day equivalent of being literate. In some countries, more people use the net than know how to drive a car.

      The flip
  • by Atlantis-Rising ( 857278 ) on Sunday December 24, 2006 @12:46AM (#17351826) Homepage
    Sadly, however, it is not techno-literacy that's the problem. The real problem is that I know people who have come out of graduate programs who can't write a letter. When I was in university, I would easily say that seventy-five percent of my graduating class could not write a proper thesis statement, to say nothing of any particular other style that might be required.

    Let's not screw around with these modern ideas of technology- we have to go back to the basics; reading and writing. Let's make sure people can read a newspaper before we ask them to read code. Let's make sure they can multiply before we ask them to write it. Our society depends on these things. Not knowing how to find the 'start' button or what a network stack is lags an extremely distant third, if at all.

    • This post makes me greatful that I never gradurated from high school.
    • by tomjen ( 839882 )
      What constitute not being able to "write a proper thesis statement"?

      I just spend 3 months making a report for my university (yes i am a student - Aalborg University does things a litle different than most others) and I can guarantee you that there where many gramatical and spelling mistakes. Does this mean I am unable to write a report (I doubt any of these mistakes would prevent anyone from understanding the report)
  • I thought we already had this discussion last month [slashdot.org].
  • Which CSU? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Corvaith ( 538529 ) on Sunday December 24, 2006 @12:58AM (#17351888) Homepage
    Is it really too much to ask to actually write out the full names of universities? I realize it's a short way into the article, but seriously. I live in Ohio. CSU is Cleveland State, to me. KSU is Kent State. Elsewhere, KSU might be Kansas State (and is, as far as domains go), and CSU is apparently California... but especially as summaries go, I can't psychically know that you mean California. USC is more commonly the University of Southern California... but it's also the University of South Carolina.

    Nobody's fingers are at risk of falling off from those few additional letters, are they?

    I know, it's not *that* important, but it makes me peevish.
  • They can only play games. As soon as WOW has a COBOL interface, things will change.
  • by MikeRT ( 947531 ) on Sunday December 24, 2006 @01:11AM (#17351932)
    Could it be that most students today have no ability to critically think? When I took a Poli Sci class to see how the other half lived in college, I wasn't surprised. I was met by peers who were largely spoon-fed political propaganda and could regurgitate it, but couldn't actually rationally justify it. For me it was like clubbing baby seals because I have frequently subjected my own views to a level of introspection that they would never do.

    Why doesn't this surprise me? Because the public schools don't teach a bloody thing anymore unless you live in a rich district. Even there, they generally teach only math or science very well. There are some very worthy things about the classical education model with its three phases which happen to correspond pretty closely with recently observed brain development in most people.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      I don't know the stats for Australian universities but, in high school english for our final years the students don't study grammar but instead how to analyse film, book and newspapers. So while it means allot of Australians have only average grammar it would certainly benefit critical thinking.
    • by Sigma 7 ( 266129 ) on Sunday December 24, 2006 @03:23AM (#17352358)
      Could it be that most students today have no ability to critically think?


      Actually, the ability to critically think is continuously supressed in the public "regurgitation" school system. These systems train students that there is exactly one correct answer to questions, and that they have to be done in a specific method. The supression of the theory of evolution is one example.

      The only way to develop the skill is to follow the concept of He Said, She Said [imdb.com] - find a topic (e.g. Is capital punishment acceptable?), and write two opposing viewpoints. As much as you hate the rigid 5-paragraph essay, it is ideal for keeping your two opposing arguments balanced enough. Here's a scaled down version (i.e. two 5-sentence paragraphs) of such an argument:

      + Capital punishment is necessary in the criminal justice system. When criminals commit severe crimes, they remain in jail for the rest of their life, leeching from the rest of society. Capital punishment will significantly reduce the overall cost by cutting down the number of years such criminals can remain a burden. In addition, this punishment can also be utilized as a method to encourage reformation (similar to parole) where produtive prisoners are permitted to enjoy life for a longer period. This economic advantage can help both society and prisoner reformation.

      - Capital punishment is the bane of society. The current justice system is inaccurrate with a large quantity of false convictions. These false convictions, which include charges "worthy" of capital punishment, can be composed of fabrication of evidence, political motivation, Confessing Sams, or general mistakes. A direct result of such blunders is a loss of an innocent life. To prevent such unnecessary loss, capital punishment must be avoided at all costs.

      As you take a look from both sides of an argument, you become better developed in handling suspect claims. While you may initially have an emotional feeling concerning something not being "right", this will change into being able to detect the exact arguments that are causing the problem.
  • Objective Sources? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by d2_m_viant ( 811261 ) on Sunday December 24, 2006 @01:20AM (#17351976)
    Call me cynical, but I question what they define as "objective" and "an authority". As I near the end of my senior year, I can't help but think back over the last four years and think of all the professors who tried drilling into us the notion that Wikipedia was the worst source of information on the 'net, and while their arguments may hold some facticity, I don't believe it's any less objective than some of the traditional sources of information. Not when you have: The point is, adults in this nation think these traditional institutions are objective, so why are we faulting the youth for their assumptions?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Literaphile ( 927079 )
      While 'normal' people may view them as objective, news agencies (Reuters, Dan Rather, and the like) are hardly authoritative sources of information in the academic world.
    • Unfortunately closed minded [littlegreenfootballs.com] groups [hotair.com] and certain people [michellemalkin.com] have a bit of an agenda that isnt simply "find the truth".
      The first one may be a clear given, the third one politically motivated but still within the ballpark, but the second one regarding Reuters shows the true colors of who the critics are(and how they slant).

      That is, Pajamas Media (the group associated with most of the criticism) has too much of a country club, right-wing, and pro-Israel slant(and does not mind showing [blogspot.com] it in the case of LGF). It co

  • The article is talking about California State University. I personally go to Colorado State University and this sort of confused me. There is more than one CSU in the USA; thanks for the ambiguity submitter!
    • CSU = calstate just about everywhere in the world (and U.S.) except for Colorado (with the exception of a few international unis with the same abbreviation). 414,000 students vs 25,000. Your considerably smaller uni gets drowned out by the superior numbers and international renown of calstate. Just like the abbreviation, "UC." For example, UCB = Berkeley to most of the world, not Boulder. It sucks for the smaller universities and colleges, but there aren't enough letters to go around.
  • Maybe they just are smarter and have better communication skills.
  • The test (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tonsofpcs ( 687961 ) <{moc.scpfosnot} {ta} {kcabhsals}> on Sunday December 24, 2006 @01:28AM (#17352010) Homepage Journal
    Is there anywhere that slashdotters can have a go at the test, so we know just what the results mean?
  • Literacy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ShakaUVM ( 157947 ) on Sunday December 24, 2006 @01:29AM (#17352014) Homepage Journal
    What on Earth does Technological Literacy have to do with being able to evaluate a web site's authority and timeliness?

    Seriously, that's more of library science issue, or whatever you call it. Technological literacy is the ability to use technology to get stuff done. Website criticism isn't really much part of that.
    • What else did you expect from EST? That's the same people who give GRE tests. Beyond the general test (which itself is not without problems), they seem to be clueless about what exactly they are evaluating. Take the math test [ets.org]: 66 questions over 170 minutes, 2.7 minutes per question.

      Scores on the tests are intended to indicate knowledge of the subject matter emphasized in many undergraduate programs as preparation for graduate study.

      I am not sure that "indicate" means what they think it does. Anyway, th

  • by Anonymous Coward
    And just like Crack Cocaine, computers have no business whatsoever in colleges or schools. Their use should definatly not be mandatory to complete a non-computer related class.

    I'm not a ludite, I just learned the hard way, after 30 years of hardcore computer addiction. They will f*** you up. Staring at a 2d desktop screen all day will seriously dissociate you from reality, and you will lose lots of skills you take for granted. Starting with the social ones first. Staring at a computer screen for hours
    • I suppose you also have something against hammers? I learned the hard way after 30 years of hardcore hammer addiction. They will fuck you up. Staring at those little pointy metal bits all day will seriously dissassociate you from reality, and you will lose lots of skills you take for granted. Starting with the screwdriver ones first. Staring at nails for hours on end is not normal nor healthy.

      Nothing wrong with not using nails. it's reliable, and worked well for thousands of years. Houses built with nails l
    • by Sigma 7 ( 266129 )

      Staring at a 2d desktop screen all day will seriously dissociate you from reality, and you will lose lots of skills you take for granted. Starting with the social ones first.

      Citation? If that is a personal account of someone you know, then it's easily countered with another personal account which claims that computers have better social skills than most teenagers.

      Nothing wrong with pen and paper. Its reliable and worked well for thousands of years. CD roms lasts maybe 20 years at the most. Harddrives maybe

  • KnowIT (Score:2, Informative)

    I work at a university, and we recently came up with a " KnowIT Program. [colorado.edu]". This program teaches digital literacy (defined as: "helping students learn how to use multiple computer tools effectively), and has a specific set of goals: It's been surprisingly difficult to get students to attend anything that we offer; our hands-on sessions (Quick Classes), computer-based training (through Skillsoft CBT), and live orientation sessions, are all pretty much empty. Students simply just don't care about digital lite
  • All they'll do is take that one MS Office course and make it a requirement for all students. That'll teach 'em all about technology! Lazyness: 1; Everyone else: 0.
  • by testadicazzo ( 567430 ) on Sunday December 24, 2006 @04:29AM (#17352532) Homepage
    from the editorial (but it's the same in the article):
    49 percent of the test-takers correctly evaluated a set of Web sites for objectivity, authority and timeliness. Only 35 percent could correctly narrow an overly broad Internet search."

    Evaluating information for objectivity, authority, and timeliness is a fundamental skill that's lacking, and it has nothing to do with the medium used to obtain the information. Look at how few people are able to read a newspaper or magazine objectively. Look at how many people, for example, think Fox news is real, unbiased, fair journalism. Thats SCARY.

    So it turns out people are equally poor at this skill when using the internet, as they are when using the television, newspapers, books, magazines, or word of mouth. Okay, that's not surprising at all. Why should that make a difference.

    That said, this is a problem and something should be done about it. But it's a mistake to characterize it as a problem with tech literacy. Tech literacy would be the inability to actually use the technology to sort the information. The article indicates that students have no trouble with this, rather with the more traditional cognitive skills.

  • My wife is in school, and she is one of the oldest people in class. There is about a ten-year difference between her and the rest.
    The younger ones that might have had a chance tend to party a lot, and get distracted. Its that, 'hey we are in college so lets drink a lot' kinda thing. The class that she is in is 'secretary' course. She puts in a lot of extra hours that to get the marks that she did.

    Quite a number of people were shocked to discover that the only people that were likely to pass were those that
  • First we were the "Generation Y", then the "Pepsi Generation", then the "Internet Generation", now "Generation M"? Dammit, if you're going to give us some lame label, stick with one!
  • First off, since when the hell does having an email account and knowing how to check it (and possibly even delete old mails too!!!) make a person a geek? Second off - there's a lot of actual geeks out there (like me for example) that know how to use boolean modifiers in a search engine and get proper results, but yet don't get the work done for at least 2 reasons

    1: lazyness
    2: you're geeky and smart enough to realize the assignments are bs

    Alright, now that I'm through ranting on that, yes I fully agree th

  • by gelfling ( 6534 ) on Sunday December 24, 2006 @08:12AM (#17353092) Homepage Journal
    Google's interface is vastly richer than most people understand. If Google created cribsheets or had better assisted help that explained the richness of their entry syntax then people would be better at using it.

    Now having said that, a few other issues -

    Tech literacy in schools devolves to teaching kids how to use Microsoft applications like Office. And most of the problem with that is that MS has created overly complex beasts that are hard to use in the first place. Moreover, none of them was created with a student in mind.

    People have short attention spans. If you're going to force people to 'use' the internet for school work then you're going to have to get Google and their ilk to partner with schools to provide more elegant and faster and more limited results windows to students.

    You are going to have to understand that just like teachers teach to the test, students use tools to answer the specific question and no more. No one, or almost no one is going to surf the web to casually learn more about Rene Decartes or the history of wool. They are looking for the answers to questions 1, 3, 7 etc. on their worksheet. And if the result could spit back the exact sentence they could then write on their sheet, that would be great.

    Next you're going to have to pare down technical complexity. My flat screen TV has a 63 page users manual (just the English). My phone's user's guide is more than 240 pages. Neither of them does exactly what I want nor do they do exctly what their vast tomes of documentation say they should do. Similarly if your computer apps are buggy, broken, poorly documented or overly documented then it means you probably did a poor job yourself on the fit and finish of the apps.

    Last but not least, the general interface on computers is junk. In the broader sense, it assumes that the application you had me install is very important and has to be front and center all the time. My son's computer has so many icons in the system tray I don't even know what most of them are. Why would anyone in their right mind even screw with them and risk breaking something? I wouldn't.
  • Interface Jockeys (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Vellmont ( 569020 ) on Sunday December 24, 2006 @12:13PM (#17354226) Homepage
    I can't say this is terribly surprising. There's a belief out there that computers are just one big interface, and if you can crack the interface then you understand the thing that underlies the interface. Kids these days have all mastered the art of understanding computer interfaces. Since they can remember they've been the family "computer expert" when Mom needs to find a recipe for chicken soup. "geezz mom!.. just type in google.com up in that address bar, type in "chicken soup recipe" down in that other bar, and click on those blue things". Mom thinks Jr. is some kind of frickin geniuous because he knew some small thing SHE didn't know.

    Of course just because you can click the right buttons doesn't mean you know what the hell is going on. I've seen a guy that calls himself a "computer consultant" re-configure TCP/IP and not know a lick about what a router was, what an IP address is, what DNS is, what a netmask means, etc. And that'd be fine if there wasn't an assumption that you really knew what was going on. We all start out at that level, it's just most people never get any farther than being what I call a "interface jockey".

    So I don't find it really surprising that this principle translates into the entire generation (and no, I don't think previous generations have been any better at the same skills). I think the lesson here is that we need to stop concentrating on the interface, and start concentrating on how to use the tool. Teaching a guy how to swing a hammer is nice and all, but it doesn't mean you know anything about building a fence. Similarly knowing how to do a web search is useless unless you know how to seperate good sources from bad, narrow your search, define your problem, learn how to refine your search through what you've learned, etc.
  • Funny story (Score:4, Insightful)

    by vga_init ( 589198 ) on Sunday December 24, 2006 @02:05PM (#17354942) Journal

    I'm reminded of the time I was an aide in my high school's computer lab. Usually the lab was used for drafting and design classes, so you'd expect the kids to have some experience with computers (if you've got to learn AutoCAD, you already know some basic functions).

    So one day the teacher in charge asks me to help one student that is trying to log in. He can't figure out what the problem is, and the teacher doesn't want to fix it until he knows what is going on.

    I go over there, and the kid just sits there, staring at the login screen. He asks me what to do, so I just read the screen to him; "Enter your username. Enter your password. Click OK." Pretty soon a window pops up that says "incorrect password."

    So this kid isn't using the right password, and he can't figure it out even though it says so right on the screen. After I see the message, I try to inform him: "It looks like you don't know your password." The kid hears this and gets angry, "Yes, that IS my password." Actually, it's not his password--the proof was right on the screen. Upon hearing his complaint, I quickly rephrase my statement: "Oh, I'm sorry... the computer doesn't know your password." That makes sense to him, and I go have the password reset by the administrator.

    True, lots of people are not "technologically literate" or whatever, but I think for a lot of people the problem is a little deeper than the mere fact that a computer was involved.

  • synthesize? (Score:3, Informative)

    by bagofbeans ( 567926 ) on Sunday December 24, 2006 @02:23PM (#17355030)
    Not all of Generation M can synthesize the loads of information they're accessing, educators say.

    Even the complainant can't use tech words correctly. One suitable word would be assimilate.

    Yeah, I know I'm a pedant, but educators should know which word to pick...

To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk. -- Thomas Edison

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