Thursday, 5 March 2009

Google and the Future of Thinking

The last session yesterday was by Tara Brabazon, Professor of Media, at the University of Brighton - entitled Google and the Future of Thinking. I couldn't possibly do the talk justice here - a very lively talk and she kept all of us riveted (as well as slightly scared). Tara has been refered to as a digital dissenter, and used an overhead projector and acetates to deliver her talk (very effectively I might add), which rather bemused the AV technician, who like me, was suprised to find out they still existed. She caused a bit of stir in the media last year by reportedly banning her students from using Google and Wikipedia, and her inaugural lecture was entitled Google is White Bread for the Mind.

The premise of her talk was that Web 2.0 technologies, Google, blogs etc, are creating a generation of students with no real information literacy skills - they know how to find information, but not how to interpret it. She wants to put the research back into search - Google provides facts without a context. Her students have to answer questions about all of the information they use, including who authored it, what evidence is used are there citations in the piece, what genre is the document (journalism, blog, acdemic paper?), who is the intened audience? All basic questions which should be asked about any citations, but apparently not regularly by todays Google generation students.

She believes that for too long teachers have got enthused about new hardware, software and how can they use it and not what they're trying to achieve. Curriculum development has suffered, as the focus has been on process and tools not literacies and knowledge.

Her new literacy model was:

Click, pause, Think.

Not click, click, click.

Very entertaining - and heads up to the brave soul at the end who challenged some of her assertions!


Anonymous said...

Sounds like an interesting session. This is something that really interests me: how to make the best use of all the great new technologies while remembering to focus on outcome as well as process. It's no good having the best LMS in the world if no-one's learning anything from it.

Markuos said...

Went back to listen to a braodcast featuring Tara Brabazon. It seems she bans Google and Wikipedia for her first years. This would kind of indicate that there is a place for this technology in education, she therefore is presumably arguing about when it should be introduced and how it is supported by rigorous academic techniques. I would have thought the majority of educators would concur; if the technology is supported correctly then it is beneficial.

There are simple techniques that can be used to demonstrate to students how their techniques and knowledge might be lacking. Surely as educators we are looking to use all of the facilities available to us to provide the best education possible.

To ban something is to say that there is no benefit at all from something. Surely that's dangerous territory.

Oh, and I like 'platic' white bread, it seems to make the best toast.

Anonymous said...

I'd go further: I think banning tools like this outright can be even worse than simply implying a lack of value. Taking either Google or Wikipedia as an example, you can ban it in class, but students are still going to use it outside, and because you've washed your hands of it they'll never learn quite how to treat it appropriately.

We should be introducing issues of information and digital literacy to students as early as we can, ideally in the first year. Only then can we help them to understand the implications of using these tools.

As an aside: a great idea that I heard a while back on the Digital Campus podcast (can't remember which episode, but possibly this one) was to get students to research a topic and make a contribution themselves to Wikipedia, then ask them to monitor their article/section for the rest of the term and report on their findings. This can be done fairly easily by subscribing to the article's history RSS feed.

The idea is that if it's a fairly active article, they'll quickly discover how often changes are made and by whom, and how many mistakes are made, corrected and un-corrected.

Jez said...

Turns out it was Jeremy Boggs, creative lead at the Centre for History and New Media at George Mason University who was giving his students the Wikipedia assignment, and he's now blogged about it.

Chris Sexton said...

That's great - thanks for the reference