information literacy lacking

Interesting finds from the Educational Testing Service [link to the Chronicle, subscription required]: “According to the preliminary report, only 13 percent of the test-takers were information literate.”

Among the study’s findings, the ETS labeled the following as “good”:

Students generally recognized that Web sites whose addresses end in .edu or .gov were less likely to contain biased material than those with addresses ending in .com.

Students typically favored print material over Web sites for authoritative information.

When searching a database of journal articles for a research project, 63 percent of students identified reasonably relevant materials.

The testing service labeled the following findings as “bad”:

Some students were too willing to believe print materials, failing to distinguish authoritative from mass-market sources.

Students were generally poor at identifying biased Web content.

When searching a database, only half of students downplayed irrelevant results.

Since I’m not teaching first year writing in a face-to-face environment this semester, it’s hard for me to compare these numbers to what I’ve seen over the past few semesters; however, I assume it would be safe to say that with the number of students on Facebook and MySpace, many are looking at the Internet as a fun and social medium, which explains the answer of print sources as thre more reliable. Still, despite their findings, I doubt many have been introduced to proper datebase searching skills that can last throughout their college careers. I think we all know how easy it is to eventually chalk it all up to Google, right?

Maybe I’m being negative…but knowing all that my own department is doing to make use of technology, I don’t really see much in terms of discussion of teaching information literacy, just pointing to website after website. I need to get on my “public writing” research to help me articulate this information literacy debate better. More soon!

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