SansBlogue  
Sunday, November 05, 2006
 

What is the role of the Internet in student research for assignments? ::



Several groups of my different colleagues have discussed this recently. Views vary hugely.

Some sound sensible: “Wikipedia should not be used in preparing assignments. It's information is not always correct.” [Ah, so you think the Encyclopedia Gallactica IS correct always? Or should students not rather learn to read critically...]

Some are extreme: “I tell students I will not accept any Internet URLs in their bibliography!” says one ostrich. [I have news for you friend, the students will do their research on the 'net, they will just hide this fact in their bibliographies for your assignments!]

I rather like this piece of urban myth (from Bruce Sterling via Jason Kottke though apparently related by an “engineering prof” which is surely enough degrees of separation for you to quote it fearlessly!):
The prof split his class into two groups. The first group, the John Henrys, had to study and learn exclusively from materials available at the library...no internet allowed. The second group, the Baby Hueys, could use only the internet for research and learning...no primary source lookups at the library. After a few weeks, he had to stop this experiment because the John Henrys were lagging so far behind the Baby Hueys that it is was unfair to continue.
I'm not sure how it would work in Biblical Studies, quite a lot of our important works are still only available in print, though between EBSCO, Oxford Online and their like, not to mention Google Books and Scholar I suspect the results (at least in a blind test where the marker did not know to which group the student belonged) might be similar. But only if the students were taught first how to use the resources at their fingertips, and how to read with discernment and sharply critical faculties honed.

Why is it we persist in seeking to teach students to inhabit the world in which we grew up and did our PhDs (getting them to compose “book reviews” and such tasks), rather than the one they inhabit (teaching them to become critical consumers of Wikipedia)?

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