With a title like “How Teens Do Research in the Digital World,” how could I possibly resist? Pew Internet’s just-released study looks at teachers’ views on how today’s digital technologies are impacting students’ research and writing habits. I just had to find out!
“The internet makes doing research easier,” says one teacher, “…easier to do well and easier to do poorly,” summarizing the internet’s dual ability to deliver as well as distract. Information may be abundant, but a majority of teachers (78%) rate their students “fair or poor” when it comes to “patience and determination in looking for information that is hard to find.” They also see deficits in their students’ ability to judge the quality of information, a skill that they see as “essential” for their students’ success.
“Doing research” has changed, these teachers say. Now, students just Google and call it a day. Or do they?
What MY students know
“I thought Google and Siri were acceptable sources … until I learned of the intricate steps that must be taken in order to write an exceptional research paper… The step that fascinates me is Step 2: ‘Critically evaluate every resource before you use it.'”
“Distinguishing facts from fiction could be one of the most valuable skills anyone can learn, especially since there is so much material to sort through.”
“Research is… even more exciting than I thought. I like discovering things. I know that I was not the first one to discover it, but whatever “it” is, I discovered it for myself.”
“I took a half hour to search the online catalog and then went to investigate several call numbers over on the stacks. I bustled around the library, filling my arms with books as I went along, and actually knew what I was doing and where I was going. What a wonderful feeling!”
Where I stand
I won’t say that research hasn’t changed; but I can say that once students understand the role of inquiry in society, learn a few basic skills, and are given fair warning and plenty of time, they become perfectly capable, insightful, and articulate researchers. My students couldn’t make me more proud – “thanks” to all of them, at Thanksgiving and always!
(Note to subscribers: Feedburner doesn’t properly display certain punctuation in some browsers. I apologize for the inconvenience! – Susan)