An addendum to my story from yesterday:
My colleague’s brother is a high school principal in a major East Coast city, and during a phone call they had yesterday, the conversation turned to the Internet.
“My teachers are complaining that the quality of their student papers is just getting worse and worse,” the principal said. “And it’s because they’re getting such bad information from the Internet. Are there any lists of ‘reputable’ sites out there that we can get our kids to use?”
My colleague, who has had the misfortune of sitting through many of my information literacy harangues, and who is a very smart person himself, said “Why don’t you do some professional development for your teachers and show them how to teach kids to find good sources?”
“Oh, no,” the principal said. “They won’t want to do that. They don’t have the time for it.”
“Well, don’t you think the kids need to learn how to use the Internet effectively as a research tool?” my friend said.
“I think it’s better for everyone if we just give them a list of sites they can use when they do their papers,” the principal said, “and tell them they have to have a certain number of those resources in the final product.”
Now, this is a loose transcript of the conversation, but the point is clear. Instead of teaching effective use of the tool, the easy way is to limit the reach of the tool, rein it in and limit its effect. If that is or will become the prevailing view, we are all in serious, serious trouble…
…and Stephen Downes seems to think that might already be the case:
But the thing is, this is not a new insight. So why do we keep getting pulled back from anything like real learner centered learning?…It doesn’t take a course in dialectical materialism to see it being shut down. Today’s theme? Take back the web.
A call to arms, perhaps?
Ken Smith says
I replied a bit over at my blog:
Laura Pearle says
Teaching them how to find resources is not enough – the evaluative piece really needs to be hammered home. This was posted on the LM_NET listserv recently:
Scenario: A high school class studying pop culture of the 1970’s.
Teacher has given them an internet scavenger hunt with lots of fun
One of the questions is: Where did Elvis die?
Answer given by some students: In Paul Cabot’s bedroom in South
How on earth did they get this answer? Just type the following words
into google and look at the third link that comes up: Where did Elvis
To be honest, I don’t see a LS student having the nous to know how to effectively search and evaluate. At that age, they still need guidance and basics.
Judy Breck says
It was great to find your blog today, through Stephen Downes mention of it in his. I am a passionate crusader for getting knowledge to kids via the internet. The schools sure don’t make that easy! I post about it on my blog devoted to the subject at
I look forward to following your posts and will add weblogg-ed to my weblog when GoldenSwamp is relaunched soon with a new design that includes weblogs. Keep up the great work! Judy Breck
Lyonel Kaufmann says
If somebody is hungry, you can
– give them a fish
– or learn him how to fish
Always the same history.
If you will made him only a consumer, you give him fishs only.
If you will made him a citizen. you MUST learn him how to fish.
Too often the school and the teachers are afraid if they learn students how to fish.