Monday, January 14, 2008

Banning Google, Why?

Why would you ban Google and Wikipedia as research tools for students? How does making the information hard to find help students? I simply cannot think of any reason that would justify holding back information. If you want students to search more, then add more references or develop methods for evaluating their ability to synthesize the material.

Students with lots of information should be able to develop more in-depth understanding. Taking the information away will not help students synthesize better.

Online research
One step should lead to another. When I conducted research for my dissertation (finished in 2006), sometimes I found it difficult to find the information and research resources within journals. Journals are often protected and I could not easily or quickly get the information. When I found myself stuck, I used Google. I did not use Wikipedia, but I could have. Generally, the resources I found helped me understand concepts and terms that I might have missed in my journal searches. Then I would go back to the journals.

Additionally, I used Google to find resources on Structural Equation Modeling. It was easier to work through my statistical problems using this method than finding professors who had students at all levels at the door. Certainly, I knew my research better than they did and I knew what I was looking for in trying to re-learn this statistical method. For final approval on my methodology, I would, of course, check with my professor. Of course, this method of learning led to my learning about situations and handling problems in SEM. It was tough staying focused sometimes on my tasks because I kept wanting to learn more.

Google was often a great jumping off point. If I were conducting my research today, I would definitely use Google and Wikipedia, but I would also use other resources, such as social bookmarking, wikis, open classrooms, and open textbooks. Those tools deserve their own discussions; that will be another post one day.

In case you are interested, my research was a multidisciplinary approach to technology use in agriculture, specifically in precision agriculture. I had over 110 references from agriculture, psychology, behavior change, sociology, economics, information systems, organizational change, and management from books, journals, and a few online links.

Additionally, as I work toward publishing some of this research, I am favoring online journals. At least then, the material would be searchable.

Disabling my use of Google would not have helped me understand and learn all these different concepts that were necessary. More than likely, I would have learned a lot less.

School-age learners
Recently, my middle schooler was working on a science project on volcanoes. She used Wikipedia, Google, her textbook and whatever was provided to her at school. When she asked for advice, I helped her go back to Wikipedia and Google and follow the links to even more information.

On the final night of preparation, I asked her, "How would you have done this science project without Google?" She stared at me, like that would be an unbelievable situation--something she could never imagine--like that would never occur. Then she said: "That would suck".

Okay, I know I need to help with her vocabulary. But, she knows a whole LOT MORE about volcanoes than I ever learned in one text book and a school library.

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