Professor Tara Brabazon of the University of Brighton is concerned about student uses of Google and Wikipedia. She is giving an upcoming lecture in Brighton which piqued my interest, entitled “Google is White Bread for the Mind.”
While I am always amazed by Google, and by no means go so far as she does(banning students from using Wikipedia and Google), I do think she’s onto something as far as our work with students and gives us a good metaphor to hang our hats on.
Google, like white bread, is easy, quick, and readily available (and liked by many/most students). But white bread’s nutritional value is lacking, so of course as parents, most of us recommend and buy wheat bread for our own children, whether or not they like white bread better.
As educators, shouldn’t we be providing more “nutritional value” for our students? When we assign any research project or paper, shouldn’t we, as content area specialists, be providing some guidance as to whom the experts in the field are and where the best sources are(be they databases or websites?), rather than turning the students loose to wander?
Or if we send them wandering, wouldn’t it be helpful to give them clues as to what to look for(important organizations in our fields, ways to evaluate a website for authority, etc.?) And in the results they bring us, shouldn’t we be helping students cull out the best resources for that field? (and embracing resources they find when they discover great ones we aren’t aware of?)
I’m very much an advocate for discovery and sometimes use a Google search myself to establish who the experts in the field are. But…if I am not familiar with the field, I still try to find a “guide” online–whether a friend I can consult or a teacher in the field or a website where someone expert has provided links.
As the professor points out, students will find their way to Google, so isn’t our job to make sure they know other avenues for finding information as well?
And even when we give our students white bread, can’t we homebake it and put it some oatmeal or wheat germ?
image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/doublereed/1985361614/