" Why Johnny Can't Search"

This the title of an article in this months edition of " Wired." I think it sums up quite succinctly the reason why we as journalists need to be highly suspect of Internet search results. As the article by clive@clivethompson.net points out, " kids know how to Google- they just can't tell when the results are crap." (pg.062)

In his piece Thompson cites a study done by College of Charleston business professor Bing Pan. Pan and his team gathered a group of students and asked them to search. Not surprisingly students often relied on top results on a Google page. He then switched around the order of the results and students still used the top rated results. And in almost every case the students, most of whom are " digital natives", failed to do the most basic things, like checking an authors credentials or examining where the item came from.

The bottom line of the piece is students aren't being given the most basic instruction on how to separate the " wheat from the chaff" on the Internet.The article suggests by the time students are in college most professors expect them to know this, but why? Its not as though this is a skill that's taught in most schools. And the article goes on to say it's not just the URL but also the tone of the piece that should be looked at.

Not unlike what we were asked to do on our recent mid-term. In the world of online reporting perhaps " crap detection" is one of the most important skills we can have.
The author notes that's especially true at a time that the lines between news and infotainment are becoming quite blurred.


Chris Harvey said...

Crap detection is indeed extremely important. Thanks for sharing, Jack.

Chris Harvey said...

And here's the story link.

Karin Zeitvogel said...

Man... young folk these days.

Wait till I show this to my son.

Tim Ebner said...

Jack, I really liked this article. I think it's a good example of how both young and old have a lot to learn about digital media. As someone who has lived through the "digital revolution," I'm fascinated by the differences in approaches people will take to using the internet as a tool and resource. And clearly, there are both benefits and cautions to its use. In my opinion, we all have a lot to learn when it comes to figuring out how to effectively use digital media.

Chris Harvey said...

Tim, you're very right; in this digital era, we're all going to have to keep learning 'till we die.

Ellen said...

This was a really interesting article. I know I tend to use the top search results on Google a lot of the time just because I assume that the top results are the ones that are most applicable to what I'm looking for, but I start to become suspicious when Google auto corrects my queries before I'm even done typing. Thanks for pointing this out, Jack. The experiment the professor tried is an interesting approach.