If you’re a teacher, you may have already suspected this after seeing huge numbers of your students submit papers copied and pasted from Wikipedia or some other website. But to be fair, that’s just laziness, not stupidity. Now there is a study out claiming that there is a real learning crisis resulting from student use of the internet because kids have no idea how to evaluate the information they find online.
Researchers constructed a website with information about a non-existent animal called a “tree octopus” that supposedly lives in the Pacific Northwest and is in danger of extinction from human encroachment on its habitat as well as predation from other species such as–get this–the sasquatch. (In fact, hoaxers constructed another page exploring the alleged tension between tree octopus and sasquatch values.)
The next step was to assign seventh-grade students to research the tree octopus. Naturally, the kids all found the site and came back with reports on why it’s so important to take action on behalf of this endangered species. The kicker is that even after the researchers explained to the children that they’d been had, the kids refused to believe them and continued to insist that the tree octopus is real and needs to be saved. After all, it was on the internet so it must be true, right?
After you stop laughing (and I did for a long time!), consider the implications here. The study’s authors argue that kids are insufficiently prepared to separate wheat from chaff online. Some who have responded to the study say that it’s not a specifically online problem; rather, it’s evidence of a more general lack of critical thinking skills among youth.
At any rate, I’m playing it safe . . . no child internet use at my house. That will keep the dumbness from grabbing them.
[Thanks to Robert Woods for alerting me to this story.]