Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Don't look now but

Google generation has no need for rote learning
Google, stupidity, and libraries

These are three fairly recent articles on the continued perceived impact of Google on research and students. I've had the privilege of some impromptu interviewing with approximately 25 freshman in the past week on their semester's experience of working with the library's databases and other resources. As a librarian who is deeply concerned and interested in developing good research practice, Google's ease of use has proven to be a double-edged sword. The first link deals experessly with this idea and has deep implications for the sharing and understanding of knowledge. Rote learning is important because it enables the students later in life to make the necessary connections between history, art and living. Relying on Google to be the fount of knowledge locks the premise of learning into a marketing-driven product that will continue to churn out consumer-driven students to a greater extent than the present. Since Google's search results, can now be removed and adjusted by the user as well as ability of the results to be manipulated by paying Google more creates incredibly skewed knowledge base. The premise that we can rely on one knowledge source, compiled by one company is incredibly short-sighted by the user. Yes we can look up information but the looking up of information only makes sense of if we can make connections between we are looking for and what we already know. To only look up information but not to retain it will continue to transform and weaken our language, our writing and our education as well as the continued transformation of information into a cheap commodity with little redeeming value.
How do we redeem this process? Librarians and educators must stand firm and push back against this ease of information age. We must require more of our students, working together to create syllabi and processes to push/force our students through the research process. In all of its Hegelian process, the students must come into conflict with multiple aspects of information literacy and interaction. To allow them to use only one source of information is to cheapen their education and rob them of their tuition. It is not my desire to get students to use the library simply because I work in one but we need to be concerned with helping to create scholars. Not in the sense of an ivory tower but in the sense of creating intelligent, critically thinking, continuous students interacting with language, culture, faith, aesthetics and God to better impact our world. We have a unique opportunity in this postmodern culture to seize upon vehicles of thought that were previously unavailable, especially that of narrative knowledge. Google is a good example of this as the user can enter in a narrative-based question/phrase that returns narrative/mythical results. However we must temper this basis of narrative knowledge with the ability to critically assess and weight information and transmute it into knowledge. This is not something every student will embrace but I believe every student must confront it head-on or we will lose more than can be currently foreseen or calculated.

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