How about some wheat bread?

wheatbrflickrdoublereed.jpg  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? 😉

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3 thoughts on “How about some wheat bread?

  1. Carolyn,

    Great idea, but I don’t think Google is the bread. I think it’s the fork. Google’s job is to get the food to the mouth. My four-year-old son doesn’t understand this. He thinks that is what fingers are for, especially when the food is at its messiest. We are fighting an ongoing battle to get him to properly use his utensils. Likewise, students will make a mess out of things when they don’t understand how to use Google or any other search. The meal is simply too big, too messy. They must learn advanced search techniques, such as searching by date or by domain type. Knowing how to sift through the smörgåsbord to find information from reliable, authentic sources is also a skill that is no less valuable when students enter a well-stocked library.

    BTW, white bread still makes the best PBJ. 🙂

  2. Carolyn,

    I wanted to thank you for introducing this point to my workshop last week, and thank you for the link to your wiki you provided (I added it to mine). The reaction from my class towards more advanced searching and the use of databases was a little mixed, but I think it was more because of lack of understanding of why they would be useful for basic searching. What worked well with them was the idea of the toolkit that every teacher and students should have. By showing them the various ways to obtain and display search results, they immediately saw the value of putting more time into searching rather than just sifting through the results.

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