Digital Natives Still Need to be Taught to Search Online

A recent article in Wired magazine, Clive Thompson on Why Kids Can’t Search, highlights a growing problem that librarians are on the forefront of seeing. Students from elementary school to college do not have adequate searching and information literacy skills. Instead, their searches consist of typing a few words into Google (from my observation, typing their thesis statement into Google), and selecting the first few links.  There often is little analysis of whether these links are the “best” or “authoritative”. When the student does realize that the websites are not adequate, the student is then at a loss as to what to do next.

The source of this problem can be blamed on many factors, several of which are described in the article. I imagine that part of the problem is that because they are “digital natives” many of us, teachers included, assume that if they know how to use technology, then they know how to search with the technology. But these are two very separate skill sets. Even though a student may be comfortable with computers and Google, the student must learn how to select an appropriate resource or database, design an effective searching strategy based on that resource, refine the strategy based on results, access the books, articles or webpages (an increasingly complex task with multiple database platforms!), and finally analyze the information. This skill set does come ‘preloaded’! Instead, these skills must be deliberately taught by teachers and librarians. If you are a teacher or librarian, what information literacy instruction do you include?

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