Friday, November 17, 2006

Are College Students Techno Idiots?

Confessions of a Science Librarian directed me to the article Are College Students Techno Idiots? by Paul Thacker at based on a report by a report by the Educational Testing Service. The report is tells the story that we librarians have been trying to tell that students are not effective at finding and evaluating information and research.

Here are some highlights (or low-lights?) of the report:

  • When asked to select a research statement for a class assignment, only 44 percent identified a statement that captured the assignment’s demands.
  • When asked to evaluate several Web sites, 52 percent correctly assessed the objectivity of the sites, 65 percent correctly judged for authority, and 72 percent for timeliness. Overall, 49 percent correctly identified the site that satisfied all three criteria.
  • When asked to narrow a search that was too broad, only 35 percent of students selected the correct revision.
  • In a web search task, only 40 percent entered multiple search terms to narrow the results.
    When searching a large database, only 50 percent of the students used a strategy that minimized irrelevant results.

UGH. Here is another example of how students who might be able to text message at the speed of light and find obscenely low air fare deals, can't do research correctly. I have had many conversations with education adminstrators who don't get it. When I asked about providing some Medline classes to a group of incomming medical students, one administrator told me, "These incomming students are pretty smart and savvy, they grew up with technology, they know how to find everything online already." Guess what they didn't and we (librarians and the students) were left playing catch up.


At 6:27 PM, Anonymous said...

I agree with the post, and everything I read in the library literature suggests that critical thinking and information literacy are under-utilized skills. Administrators and professors "assume" their undergraduates have these skills when students actually only know how to regurgitate (that's how they're taught in high school). It is a pathetic situation, but one I'm willing to work hard to eradicate at my institution!


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The Krafty Librarian has been a medical librarian since 1998. She is currently the medical librarian for a hospital system in Ohio. You can email her at: