How about NOT using Google? – and stoats in white coats

Yesterday I was reading The Guardian’s education section which comes out every Tuesday. As I’m now living in Scotland, I get the Guardian delivered every day (and 2 pints of milk delivered every other day) and although I can get it online, I like reading a hard copy newspaper. In yesterday’s section, there was an interview with the Australian academic Tara Brabazon, who teaches at a UK university and one of her aims is to get students to read more books. The article states that “She wants to ban first year students from using Google altogether”. She has given her students 200 extracts from books and journals and will refuse to mark anything which goes outside these resources. I have to say that this has been something that I’ve advocated for quite a while for those in schools. Over the years, I’ve worked with Chris Morrison, school librarianĀ at Linlithgow Academy and some of his teaching colleagues. Chris designed a number of what I called ‘instructional websites’ (although I now prefer the term ‘learning websites’) which contained a large amount of mediated and annotated resources for students. We did a survey with some students who said that they preferred to use the learning website rather than Google. However, it was interesting that some teachers in the school were obviously afraid that advising students notto use a search engine might seem like some kind of modern day heresy. So for teacher librarians, I think there is an opportunity – maybe via wikis – to build learning websites with enough resources for students to do some assignments without resort to a search engine.

On the bike the other day and I cycle up a biggish hill just outside the village of Stenton and on to a flat section with a high hedgerow to my right and left. Looking left, I saw an ermine i.e. a stoat in it’s winter coat of pure white and it ran along the hedgerow for quite a while. Stoats/ermines are only about 8 inches long but when they are in their bright, white coats and jinking through the hedgerow, they look bigger. These are the times that you want a camera in your eyes, so you could just blink and take a photo or video and download it when you get home. Maybe some day.

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4 Responses to “How about NOT using Google? – and stoats in white coats”

  1. Shona Cornwall Says:

    Interesting blog. I have for some time suspected that Teachers think they must be involved in Web 2.0 ‘stuff’ not because they find it interesting or useful but because they are afraid they will be perceived as old fashioned or worse, irrelevant. From my observations of students and my own teenage children it appears to me that they just use what ever is there at the time to keep them in touch with their friends. As technology changes and becomes available to them they just work out what they can use and how they can use it, but basically it is all about keeping informed and keeping in touch. Google is just easy, and the idea of creating websites, wikis or pathways for the school intranet is brilliant as the TL can have a level of control over content and the student may see it as an ‘easy’ and therefore desirable option. And as for the ermine and camera situation, I have my eye on a Nokia N95 as it has a rather nice little 5mpx camera, and as I take my phone everywhere and not my camera it could solve this sort of issue…yet you would still have to be able to balance very well.

  2. Cathy Hainstock Says:

    I too have tried to wean the students at school off of Google searching. Even with training in the advanced search mode, they love to ‘trawl’ (as I call it) and with limited time and computers this is just too inefficient.
    I’ve set up a simple Blogger account “Projects Hotspot” which I update once a term with relevant sites. Options are on the side bar such as databases and search engines but overall I’m finding the children and teachers are happy with trying the selected sites first. They still have to find information relevant to their learning within the sites. They’re still using their IL skills

    Easy-peasey!

  3. Jill Wilson Says:

    I fail to see the difference between using a search engine and using learning websites. Students are still being spoon fed information. They are not interacting physically with books or picking up critical thinking, lateral thinking or research skills.

  4. Maria Papazoglou Says:

    I have been thinking about this a lot lately. I agree that there’s a lot of information out there that is good, bad and indifferent, which students seem unable to use and that goes for information found in books, internet and well really information that can be found in any medium. I’ve never thought about it before but wouldn’t it be easier if there was a learning website that all students can use with information pitched at the right levels and to cover most of the curriculum? Does one exist already or does each school have to make up one of its own?

    But I hear the critics too who say this would be spoonfeeding and not equip students to be independent. Some teachers deny students dictionaries in a test because it would be giving them the answer. I have watched lots of students find lots of great information independently but unfortunately many of them can’t take that information any further even though it looks simple enough to me. It’s not only that students lack basic IL skills, at some schools like mine, many students just lack basic L skills. What is the role of the TL then? That’s what I’m interested in finding out.

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