A University professor has made a successful bid for media coverage of a standard lecture by insulting Google. Google is “white bread for the mind”, according to Tara Brabazon, Professor of Media Studies at the University of Brighton, arguing that teachers should equip students with skills to process Internet information.
(She teaches Media Studies. Isn’t that supposed to be HER job?)
She believes that easy access to information has dulled students’ sense of curiosity and is stifling debate. She claims that many undergraduates arrive at university unable to discriminate between anecdotal and unsubstantiated material posted on the internet. ……
We can no longer assume that students arrive at university, knowing what to read and knowing what standards are required of the material that they do read.”
“knowing what to read?” Well what should you read? What your teachers have told you?
Whole chunks of all education operate through teachers implicitly saying “Learn these facts. Because I say so.” Few teachers reward a challenging response from their students. “Challenging” has even become a euphemism for “irritating, dangerous, pain in the arse” in teacher- and social worker-speak.
The Internet opens up access to new potential information sources. Lots of teachers don’t like this precisely because their models of how to evaluate information are derived from accepting what they read in textbooks.
It’s not Google that panics University teachers. Anyone who can get any relevant information out of Google nowadays is probably already the best in their classes. It’s really Wikipedia. that annoys Universities Oh yes, here it is, in the Prof’s speech.
“Students live in an age of information, but what they lack is correct information. They turn to Wikipedia unquestioningly for information. Why wouldn’t they – it’s there,” she said.
Yes, indeed why wouldn’t they? It’s more factually correct than standard encyclopedias. It’s totally accessible. That’s what disturbs some teachers. (Including, I assume the Prof, unless she really is serious about teaching critical thinking….. In which case, Go Prof! Go Prof! etc)
Many are training their students for an imaginary academic career, as it would have been thirty years ago. They feel that students are workshy unless they put in the physical effort to search in libraries, pay large sums for course books and compete with other students for access to obscure library journals. Are these activities assumed to be “educational” by their very nature, just because the lecturers had to do them when they were students? Now, we have instant access to material from all over the world. Finding it quickly, judging its value and how it relates to other bits of information are the skills we need now.
Shouldn’t teachers reward students more for showing “thinking and questioning” skills than for proving they’ve read the text books and memorised a set of “facts”?
Accepted and memorised knowledge is crucial in some topics at some levels. (You can’t come up with alternate versions of the laws of thermodynamics or invent your own French word for ‘pen’) It is completely misguided in other subjects.
Inability to evaluate information isn’t just a problem for University students or for Internet sources. We are all pretty bad at it.
School students need to be specifically encouraged to dispute the sources and content of information, including the books they have been told to read. Training people to accept authority without questioning it encourages people to accept the words of ministers, priests, imams, kool-aid distributors, politicians, press, television, Fox news, gossip magazines, Answers in Genesis, Holy Books x,y & z, psychic detectives, fake nutritionists, fake childcare experts, wifi-cure salespeople and a bazillion other sources of bullcrap.