Quote [from Washington Post]: "'[The Web] never presents students with classically constructed arguments, just facts and pictures.' Many students today will advance an argument, he continues, then find themselves unable to make it convincingly. 'Is that a function of the Web, or being inundated with information, or the way we're educating them in general?'"Comment [from Greg Hanek on SiT]: This article provides examples of how poorly many people interact with information and information resources.
Is the US socio-political-education system (and it's focus on multiple-guess/standardized exams) a causal factor in how students interact with the Web to accomplish their assignments? What do you think? (via Craig's Booknotes)[via Serious Instructional Technology]
The article is actually fairly balanced, as a later part shows how good use of the Internet results in things like '[Jeffrey Meikle's] best undergraduates come up with new takes on old subjects as quickly as graduate students did years ago'. Two questions:
- It's obvious the 'net can enable bad thinking and writing to drop to new lows, and can enable good thinking and writing to reach new highs. Which effect is occurring more? If I had to guess, I'd guess the former... but then, it's not a given that this is bad thing. At the risk of sounding elitist, slackers will always slack. (This is especially true now that everybody thinks they have to go to college; there are noticably more slackers in the freshman class last year then just five years ago.) Rather then rigidly requiring or banning Internet or library use, why not just require a Good Essay and grade on that? After all, the real skill is finding and processing good information, regardless of source.
- I'd question whether this is really a problem with the Internet per se, rather then a general problem. "Many students today will advance an argument, he continues, then find themselves unable to make it convincingly." Taken out of context, that sounds like generally true statement about the whole educational system. (Concerns about) Decline in thinking skills started before 'the Internet' became a research resource for your average college student.The Internet may be exacerbating pre-existing trends, but it is not really responsible for them, as is evidenced by those who use it as a springboard for a higher level of intellectual accomplishment.
The real problem here, IMHO, is the difficulty of forcing someone to think for themselves. I do not mean this as a defeatist or elitist point; I think this problem should be addressed directly, which despite rhetoric, it rarely is. The Internet is a bugaboo, an excuse, a distraction. Why are you assigning assignments that can be completed in a couple hour session with copy and paste? (There may be good reasons, but the reasons should probably be explored.)