Posted by: MandyS | January 31, 2013

Generations of information seekers

Block 1 Activity 4

The ‘younger’ generation may be permanently attached to their computers, ipads, ipods, mobiles and anything else electronic they can get their hands on but the reality is that they don’t necessarily use them effectively. This being the case, how effective are these tools for learning?

I identified  1. ‘They [the Google Generation] need to feel constantly connected to the web’ and 4. ‘They are expert searchers’ as the myths. The first didn’t immediately strike me as a myth for the simple reason that they do always seem to be connected to something, but I don’t think it is necessarily the Web; Music, social networking, MSN maybe but I don’t think they use the web in the same way the ‘older’ generation do. This appears to be the findings of the study; it is the older generation that spend longer connected to the Web, which is probably true as it is we who spend our time ordering food, furniture, clothes, booking holidays etc.

The second I was more definite about simply because of watching the way in which my daughter searches for information. She definitely has no skills in this department and she has supposedly got a qualification in computing! I think therin lies the problem. Yes, the youngsters are brought up on computers and the Web and to that end they are assumed to be experts; the reality is they are no more expert than me.

Of the other statements I decided that 2. ‘They are the “cut-and-paste” generation’ is wholly accurate. I observe this with many of my own students; they don’t appear to have the capacity to write in their own words. Why should they when cutting and pasting is such much easier. The theme emerging is that ‘speed is of the essence,’ which, to my mind, is what is having such a profound effect on learning, both in its delivery and its reception.

And I totally missed 3.’They pick up computer skills by trial and error’ as a myth but I suppose this has to be right. The youngster are trained from an early age, it is us oldies who perhaps pick those skills up as we go along.

Reading the rest of the text, one of the points I found quite interesting was that ‘students prefer teachers and textbook to the internet’. Why is this I wonder? Are they thought of as being more reliable information providers? Wikipedia appears to have gathered some notoriaty in the past few years for not being wholly accurate. One of the discussions in the student cafe for W201 is the preference of face-to-face tutorials over Elluminate. The only fact swaying in favour of FTF is literally that you can ‘see’ the ‘teacher’ so the ‘learning’ must have more credibility!

So which of these statements applies to me? Only 3. really. I have never learned how to use a computer. What I know I have picked up as I have gone along.  I don’t feel the need to be constantly connected to the Web (although I perhaps invariably am) and although cut and paste is useful for some things, I have not lost the art of writing my own version. And I can safely say that I am no expert searcher!

So, just to prove the usefulness of cut and paste…Graph comparing six age rangesI must say, I can’t actually remember the last time I visited a library, although this could be because I haven’t lived near enough to one since I was at College. I wasn’t actually sure what Google scholar was and, although I would view journal’s online, I dont’ visit the publisher’s websites. That leaves personal recommendations and electronic tables as the only two which I think I would say is the method I adopt for locating articles.

And the implications of all this in respect of my own work. Well, it certainly explains a few things…but the biggest impact is not assuming that those who use technology do so effectively. Learning resources have to do just that, aid the learning experience. As the study suggests, interactive learning may benefit the experience and ‘enhance interest’ but it must not be at the expense of ‘impeding the absorption of information.’


CIBER/UCL (2008) Information Behaviour of the Researcher of the Future, Centre for Information Behaviour and the Evaluation of Research (CIBER) briefing paper, University College London; also available online at file.php/ 7325/ block1/ UCL_Reading_research.pdf (accessed 24 January 2013).


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