”Or what about this hoary chestnut: students today are impatient, incapable of waiting, and demand instant gratification, and any delay or requirement that effort be expended simply leads them to click off to some other site. This idea also gets axed by the report, which calls the idea "a truism of our time" with "no hard evidence to suggest that young people are more impatient in this regard."
By Nate Anderson | Published: January 18, 2008 - 06:20AM CT
A new UK report on the habits of the "Google Generation" finds that kids born since 1993 aren't quite the Internet super-sleuths they're sometimes made out to be. For instance, are teens better with technology than older adults? Perhaps, but they also "tend to use much simpler applications and fewer facilities than many imagine."
The report (PDF), sponsored by the British Library and the Joint Information Systems Committee, tries to get beyond the stereotypes to find out just how good young people are with information technology, and what the implications are for schools and libraries. Based on log analysis from British Library web sites and search tools, along with a "virtual" longitudinal study based on literature reviews from the past 30 years, the report explodes a number of myths about students today.
It's true that young people prefer interactive systems to passive ones and that they are generally competent with technology, but it's not true that students today are "expert searchers." In fact, the report calls this "a dangerous myth." Knowing how to use Facebook doesn't make one an Internet search god, and the report concludes that a literature review shows no movement (either good or bad) in young people's information skills over the last several decades. Choosing good search terms is a special problem for younger users.
The report's cover image. Seriously.
Another common trope is that respect for authority on the Web is dead (with Wikipedia usually cited as an example) and that there are no more "experts" on the Internet; it's all about peer knowledge. The report calls this a "myth" as well, saying that "research in the specific context of the information resources that children prefer and value in a secondary school setting shows that teachers, relatives, and textbooks are consistently valued above the Internet."
Or what about this hoary chestnut: students today are impatient, incapable of waiting, and demand instant gratification, and any delay or requirement that effort be expended simply leads them to click off to some other site. This idea also gets axed by the report, which calls the idea "a truism of our time" with "no hard evidence to suggest that young people are more impatient in this regard."
So what's true about the Google generation?
- They like to cut-and-paste. "There is a lot of anecdotal evidence and plagiarism is a serious issue."
- They prefer visual information over text. "But text is still important... For library interfaces, there is evidence that multimedia can quickly lose its appeal, providing short-term novelty."
- They multitask all the time. "It is likely that being exposed to online media early in life may help to develop good parallel processing skills."
But libraries, generally headed by members of "the greatest generation" rather than the Google generation, need to be careful about how they try to meet the needs of the next generation. Jumping headfirst into hot new technologies like social networking can easily backfire. The report notes that some librarians are opening MySpace and Facebook pages, trying to make their services hipper to students, but that "there is a considerable danger that younger users will resent the library invading what they regard as their space."
Many thanks to Amy Hosesth, Instruction Librarian, for recommending this tip.