Monday, 24 March 2008

The Google generation - not enough critical thinking skills

A new report, commissioned by JISC and the British Library portrays the ‘Google Generation’ – people born or brought up in the Internet age – in a way that might be surprising to many. Basically, it claims that, although these people exhibit an ease and fluency with computers, they rely on the most basic search tools and do not possess the critical and analytical skills to asses the information that they find on the web. Now, consider that in Brazil, those with easy access to high speed Internet are most frequently those coming from better educated families and with access to the best schooling opportunities. These people lack critical thinking skills, and, as we have been told by recent studies about Brazilian reality (the latest ISEP), cannot read or write in the fullest sense of these terms… What then can be expected from the vast majority of the Brazilian population? I see the “teaching” of literacy skills—basic, digital and media literacy—the only way to promote their empowerment. However, what does this ‘teaching’ encompass? Hopefully not the throwing of the “right” content, but the cultivation of thinking habits, the promotion of meaningful networked discussion towards real independence and not reliance on the same old experts.


Steve Howard said...

Tom king did an excellent presentation on the need to evaluate results at EuroTAAC in Denmark last year.

Basically, the sum total of human knowledge is growing at a tremendous rate, and the most of that knowledge is there on the internet. Somewhere.

But that does not mean that all of the information on the Internet is good, correct, or appropriate for our needs. Following Tom's presentation, I found myself thinking about the need to teach young people how to 'Search and Sift" as an overriding skill beyond teaching them how to "Read and Remember", which is really what we have been resorted to over the last several decades.

In other words - teach them critical thinking. Without that, as you rightly point out, younger people are not going to be able to make best use of the most stunning resource we have ever been able to tap into.

Anamaria Camargo said...

Hi Steve.

Do you think e-learning has a role in this process? I mean, I keep thinking that we have been underusing the e-learning tools available to us, and we could perhaps be using them to help people become more LITERATE. Are you familiar with experiences of this kind? I'd be really interested in learning about them.


Steve said...

Absolutely. Use and any all learning tools available if they are suited to the task.

Personally I don't worry so much about literacy. These days, overall, it seems to me that people are *communicating* with each other via text more than ever before because of the internet (blogs, email, wikis, chat rooms, forums, etc).

Parents and teachers throw up their hands complaining of bad grammer, poor spelling etc ... but they've always done that. Yet the world has never crumbled because of bad spelling or grammar :-)

I think eLearning can be used as part of everyones education, whether at school, at home, or at work.

Motivated learners will continue to devour information as they always have, but today it is even more available to them than aver.

Less motivated learners will still need to be coaxed, and that's where **quality** ***engaging*** eLearning can really help.

But if effort is not applied to actually get the learners interested in the learning content, it will be useless. This is one of the reasons why people have become so excited about using games for learning. Many of us can happily learn from books or web pages, but others need to be much more engaged before they can pay attention and truly learn.

Anamaria Camargo said...

Hi Steve.

I totally agree with you. In fact, it’s this ability to communicate through reading and writing what I refer to when I say LITERACY ( It’s wonderful that the Internet is promoting communication as never before, but what concerns me is that many, many people are still not enjoying this opportunity. According to recent studies ( , Brazilian students do not really understand what they read. Although they recognize the words, they are not able to actually make connections with reality, or analyse and reflect upon how the written message impacts on their lives. Perhaps e-games, as you suggest, could be used as adequate tools to help them develop their critical and creative thinking, thus leading to the kind of literacy I’m referring to.

Sorry for not providing active links. For some reason the HTML editor is not working :(

Steve said...

So what reasons are given for *why* students lack understanding in what they read?

Is it how they are trained to read? Is it *what* they read? Is it because they don't read enough?

Something else?

Without a grasp of what is the cause of the problem, it is going to be very hard to discover the most suitable approaches to fixing it.

Anamaria Camargo said...

Hi Steve. The reasons for this problem are really complex and in fact go beyond educational factors. Social, economic and political factors are important issues to consider, but if I want to stick with the educational ones, which are really my main concern, I would say that in general, people lack appropriate reading practice. Practice that could lead them to reflect on what they read and, and that could help them produce texts for others to read, reflect upon and comment. That's why I think the use of blogs and wikis could be really useful.

Steve said...

OK that makes sense.

So, with or without eLearning, you need to generate ways to encourage reading comprehension?

Seems to me that you could create exercises where you have a paragraph or a short story that the reader must read and answer questions on. With eLearning you can add images, animations, game-like quizzes to make the whole thing more engaging and fun to take part in.

So I think this answers your original question - absolutely eLearning is a great tool for this sort of education.

Anamaria Camargo said...

Thank you so much, Steve. You have not only answered my initial question, but also helped me think over my initial thoughts about elearning and teaching literacy. Thanks again :)

Steve said...

Hey - I'm glad to have helped. Good luck!