Click here for Times Higher Education, 5 June 2008
Does the Google generation, which has grown up with a deluge of data just clicks away, lack the independence of thought and critical rigour needed for higher study? Matthew Reisz investigates
...illustrates the immense gulf between the world of old-time scholarship and the assumptions made - or often said to be made - by today's "Google generation", where everything is about instant gratification and "facts at one's fingertips", and information that lies more than three clicks away simply doesn't exist. Many are now concerned that this generation gap presents a fundamental challenge to some of the things that universities have long stood for, and that universities are either unable or failing to bridge it.
...So is it not just a particular generation but the whole academic world that has been Googlised? There seems to be some evidence for this. "With Google Scholar and Google Library under way," Library Journal reported in 2006, "Google strengthened its claim as the ubiquitous front door to the web and all of its content... 72 per cent of scholars surveyed for a report on self-archiving confessed to using Google to find scholarly literature on the web. Journal publishers of all sizes and importance are shaping their business plans around this phenomenon, sharing metadata with Google and other web crawlers in hopes of drawing users to content behind their tollgates."...
....None of this suggests a very sophisticated level of searching skills among the students of tomorrow. But that is only the half of it. Uncritical reliance on search engines may be a reasonable way of accessing information, despite their many limitations, but it is of no help for the core educational goal of learning to assess such information. The Ciber paper expressed concerns about whether students' "having 'facts at their fingertips' and a surfeit of information is at the expense of creative and independent thinking".