21 August 2011


Nurturing good student research skills have become a personal quest for  me the last few years. My students are smart, and arrive with some web skills, but when it comes to research, we seem to start from scratch every year (as do the others teachers in my department). Lisa Gold, the research maven, recently wrote up results from yet another study about our digital natives' non-skills here.  I am even reminded of Eli Pariser's filter bubble concept, which suggests that personalization of web search results on Google and social media are preventing us from seeing our world as it is.  Certainly a filter bubble of personalization would significantly impact my research and what results I achieve. I have used webquests and internet scavenger hunts, among other things, to reveal the gap between quality research and "just googling" a topic. We have even researched Wikipedia pages to uncover the work inherent in a GOOD wikipedia page (they always seem to recognize the good pages, but can't list the hints they used to identify the good pages).
There are a couple of reasons for this:
  • a disconnect: they do not see the connection between personal surfing skills and school research skills.
  • motivation: the internet changes constantly, 24/7. No one can keep up without spending serious time. 
  • conflicting goals: students strive to be efficient, while teachers want students to be thorough.
Until I read this NYT article about Google's crusade to rid its search results of garbage sites, I did not know that it was often CONTENT FARMS that I had been battling with my students for a couple of years. I plan to attack this problem with a few strategies
  • direct hit: Identify content farms with them--ask.com is a good example--and set up a wiki webquest which will require that they track the source of every piece of information they discover. A colleague of mine once commented that she was frustrated with the attitude that kids thought "looking something up was the same as researching it." This project may reveal the difference. 
  • Project design: Increase the number of primary sources I require on research projects. I started this last year, and though there was much whining, the end results were clearly superior--we could all see the truth of  it.
  • Supplementary reinforcement: Suggest a concrete approach to this problem in our freshman library orientation projects (jointly planned by the library and English departments).
Below are some links to further information I found while "researching" this problem:
And a link from earlier post re: the filter bubble:

1 comment:

Healigan said...

Wow. I think I just got a comment on my content farm post from a content farm!