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Are College Students Techno Idiots?

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the need-nerd-training-stat dept.

297

ict_geek writes "Are college students techno idiots? Despite the inflammatory headline, Inside Higher Ed asks an interesting question. The article refers to a recent study by ETS, which analyzed results from 6,300 students who took its ICT Literacy Assessment. The findings show that students don't know how to judge the authoritativeness or objectivity of web sites, can't narrow down an overly broad search, and can't tailor a message to a particular audience. Yikes. According to the article: 'when asked to select a research statement for a class assignment, only 44 percent identified a statement that captured the assignment's demands. And when asked to evaluate several Web sites, 52 percent correctly assessed the objectivity of the sites, 65 percent correctly judged for authority, and 72 percent for timeliness. Overall, 49 percent correctly identified the site that satisfied all three criteria.'" If they are, they're not the only ones.

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Clearly this is posted by ... (3, Funny)

guysmilee (720583) | more than 6 years ago | (#16872936)

Clearly this is posted by one of the studies subjects :-)

Re:Clearly this is posted by ... (2, Interesting)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873518)

Clearly this is posted by one of the studies subjects :-)

I wonder if they all had to sit through those Library "orientation" classes

Personally, I have serious doubts about anyone's ability to teach a "techno idiot" the ability to judge the authoritativeness or objectivity of web sites, etc during a single class period.

Re:Clearly this is posted by ... (1)

igny (716218) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873520)

There has to be a joke about virginity somewhere here.

Yes (1)

Tyten (726456) | more than 6 years ago | (#16872940)

Yes, they are.

Slashdot (-1)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 6 years ago | (#16872948)

Slashdot is a waste of timeliness.

ID10T5 (4, Funny)

rajafarian (49150) | more than 6 years ago | (#16872978)

This goes well with my theory that over 50% of human beings are idiots.

Re:ID10T5 (4, Funny)

Vraylle (610820) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873198)

I think you're being generous.

My personal longstanding theory is that the total global I.Q. is a constant. It's just split up among an exponentially growing population.

Every seven seconds or so I feel a brain cell trying to die.

Re:ID10T5 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#16873328)

The global I.Q. is constant, by definition :)

Re:ID10T5 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#16873736)

No it isn't; he said the total - not the average. The average is supposed to be constant (ie, an average person has IQ = 100). But he is saying take your 80 and add his 130 and everybody else's value up and the sum will always be the same for the world. In other words he is being funny. But it went over your head. Maybe he has a point...

Re:ID10T5 (4, Funny)

griffjon (14945) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873354)

exactly; does this study control for people who are idiots?

Re:ID10T5 (1)

HomelessInLaJolla (1026842) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873442)

You've never heard of the 99:5:80 theorem?

99% of all the people in the world are idiots.
Even the most selective of colleges take their student pool from the top 5% of candidates.
Statistically, 80% of students, even at the most selective colleges, are still idiots.

Re:ID10T5 (1)

From A Far Away Land (930780) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873744)

Don't you mean that 50% of students are below average?

"don't know how to judge the authoritativeness or objectivity of web sites, can't narrow down an overly broad search, and can't tailor a message to a particular audience"

Since I read this on Slashdot, it must be true. I did a search for 'computer users are idiots', and came up with this website we're talking on.

But I do know how to tailor a message to a particular audience, because I used a beowulf cluster of idiotic students to type this out for me. Imagine that idiot power?

It's not college students, it's people (5, Insightful)

realmolo (574068) | more than 6 years ago | (#16872980)

*Most* people are terrible at critical reading. Just terrible.

For that matter, most people don't really like to read at all.

Re:It's not college students, it's people (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#16873144)

Parent.modpoints++;
Most people I know here (Suburban NY) refuse to read any work aside from 'executive' summaries & Cliff notes. I write techincal papers for a living; I would say a good 90% read the first page (the afore mentioned 'executive' summary) and proceed to fire off questions about what is covered in the other 99% of the document. We intentionally write in 'lay man''s' terms to avoid talking over many people, yet they refuse to read anything more than the first 1 - 2 pages. We have purposfully tested this idea with writing the first five pages in english, then filing in the rest with either technobable from a Markov Generator or pages from lipsum. Although this was an unimportant document, only one person actually asked what the rest of the document ment. Ouch. It's a good thing that I don't have to stay if layed off by a decent program (since that could easily generate a two page summary for these idiots).

I agree (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#16873170)

Most people are great at critical reading, like me.

I'd mod you up... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#16873202)

but I didn't bother reading all of your post.

Re:It's not college students, it's people (5, Insightful)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873332)

*Most* people are terrible at critical reading.
I totally agree. For instance, most /. comments on this story fail to critique the validity of the test's questions or whether there was any bias in the study's selection of test-takers.

Re:It's not college students, it's people (4, Insightful)

flynt (248848) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873452)

Mod parent up! When a conclusion of a study is something we want to believe, in this case, "Most college students are idiots with computers and information", and this reinforces something we believe about ourselves, "I am smarter than these people", we don't question the methodology as we should. Contrast that to a study which shows something you don't want to believe, the first thing that happens, you question the methodology. Of course, my idea here has not been proven, it's just something I'm guessing.

Mod parent up! (4, Insightful)

khasim (1285) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873754)

From the .pdf :
When constructing a presentation slide designed to persuade. . .
-80% included irrelevant points with relevant points
-Just 12% used only points directly related to the argument
-8% used entirely irrelevant points

Well DUH!!!

When you "persuade" someone, "irrelevant points" are useful if they can be used to emotionally "persuade" someone.

You see this all the time in political discussions.

The problems with "testing" people is that the people who write the tests have their own biases and opinions about what is "better" or "bad". And since they write the tests, their opinions are naturally considered to be more "correct" than the people they're testing.

Re:It's not college students, it's people (1)

tukkayoot (528280) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873786)

I totally agree. For instance, most /. comments on this story fail to critique the validity of the test's questions or whether there was any bias in the study's selection of test-takers.

Those were the first questions that popped into my mind: what exactly did these questions look like, who exactly were they testing, who exactly was doing the test taking, etc.

Yours is one of the first commments on the story that I've read so I'm not sure yet whether these questions have been asked -- I'll have to scroll down more. What I do see is that your post comes only about 20 minutes after the posting of the article, which isn't a lot of time for readers to fully read the article (to see if these questions are answered in the article itself) and then articulate their critiques. You have to kind of expect the first few posts to be pretty much garbage.

What I often find is that when I do have questions about an article like this, someone posts my concerns in a more eloquent, thoughtful and informed manner before I ever have the chance. So while maybe "most people" including slashdot readers have poor "critical reading" skills, I'm not sure the comments you've seen on this article so far is what you'd call a good "representative sample".

Re:It's not college students, it's people (1)

susano_otter (123650) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873844)

I totally agree. For instance, most /. comments on this story fail to critique the validity of the test's questions or whether there was any bias in the study's selection of test-takers.


Actually, it's just that our critical reading skills made it instantly clear to most of us that such effort was totally unecessary, and therefore we didn't waste our time on it.

The most important part of critical thinking is knowing when to actually bother with it.

(Protip: Slashdot? Not so much.)

Re:It's not college students, it's people (1)

Otter (3800) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873470)

*Most* people are terrible at critical reading. Just terrible.

And as with all of these "OMG everyone else is so teh stupid!!!" stories, it's not as if people here are especially inclined to critical thinking either when the day's swallowed-whole press release is congenial to their own snobberies.

For example, don't you think a statement like "52 percent correctly assessed the objectivity of the sites, 65 percent correctly judged for authority" is meaningless without a bit of added context? (If you've actually clicked through their Flash monstrosity of a test and formed an informed opinion, I'm not talking about you...)

Re:It's not college students, it's people (1)

thisIsNotMyName (1019074) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873586)

Exactly. As a control, I'd like to see the same study done for slashdot readers (or any similar group made up of people who are obviously not "Techno Idiots"). My guess is that around 50% would still fail.

Re:It's not college students, it's people (1)

businessnerd (1009815) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873710)

Exactly. I have not RTFA, but anywhere does this study have a control sample or some other baseline for comparision? How do people the in the same age demographic that are NOT in college compare? How do people who graduated at least five years ago compare? What about high school kids. I think a better study would be done in multiple phases. First, test high school students. Then when those same students have graduated high school, test them again. Compare the ones in college with the ones not in college and then compare both of those with the first high school scores. Another test post-college would also be helpful. Without any kind of broad study to cover all demographics, you could come to any conclusion you want. For instance, do a study, only on African Americans on their ability to understand Einstein's theory of relativity. The conslusion would most likely be that African Americans are idiots when it comes to Einstein's theories. Then you could go further by comparing this to white rocket scientists. This just in white rocket scientists have a far better understanding of the theory of relativity than black people in general! News at eleven!

Re:It's not college students, it's people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#16873810)

*Most* people are terrible at critical reading.

I disagree. Not *all* of us are terrible at writing criticisms.

Re:It's not college students, it's people (1)

the_duke_of_hazzard (603473) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873814)

I hate all such generalisations.

So... (4, Funny)

jfclavette (961511) | more than 6 years ago | (#16872982)

What's this article about ?

Re:So... (4, Funny)

Trespass (225077) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873064)

'Those goddamn kids are so stupid today yadda yadda yadda...'

We were all so much smarter at their age, because that's how we care to remember things.

Re:So... (1)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873616)

I knew to avoid jumping in front of buses unlike this guy [www.cbc.ca] ...

It's not uncommon when I drive home from work to have stupid 14 yr olds jump in the middle of the road, or walk like 9 across down a road...

Kids are stupider today than yesterday because we fear forcing them to learn shit all. Can't discipline them, can't fail them, etc, etc, etc...

Not that kids my age weren't stupid when we were teens, just that teens today are STUPIDERERER.

Tom

Re:So... (3, Funny)

spellraiser (764337) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873120)

What's this article about ?

It seems to me that it's about purple haddocks that live in houses made of straw. I could be wrong though ...

It's not tech that they are missing... (5, Insightful)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 6 years ago | (#16872984)

It's critical thinking skills.

This is nothing new. Decades of teaching to standardized tests and ignoring the thought process in favor of fact regurgitation has led to this.

Mod parent up (1)

bbernard (930130) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873072)

Absolutely. The skills described have as much to do with technology as they do to music appreciation. These results are all about critical thinking deficiencies. Or, put another way, proving once again how many people are sheep/lemmings/cattle looking to be led around by the nose.

Re:It's not tech that they are missing... (1)

77Punker (673758) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873128)

Don't be too quick to knock all standardized tests. I don't know about the end-of-grade tests in public schools, but one look at the SAT and it's fairly plain that it's been designed to evaluate critical thinking ability.

Re:It's not tech that they are missing... (2, Insightful)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873322)

I'm not knocking the tests themselves (though some do deserve it), I'm knocking teaching to the test. My 7th through 10th grade English Lit classes were just vocabulary classes, a complete waste of my time. One year our final exam was a friggin' crossword puzzle the teacher designed -- and a poor one, at that. I learned absolutely nothing from those classes, since I had an extensive vocabulary already.

I was fortunate to have parents and college professors that demanded I develop critical thinking skills -- there is no way I would have developed them otherwise. This is from someone who went to a school district regarded as one of the best in NJ (at the time).

Re:It's not tech that they are missing... (1)

xTantrum (919048) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873238)

I'd have to concur with the OP. Regardless of what technology is at at our disposal if we don't have basic reasoning skills and deductive logic implementation, we might as well not have the technology.

A case in point is the Web. people seem to forget that the WWW was created for particle physicists to share information, as such there are lot of academia sites on there and knowledgable info - if you know how and where to look. The fact that doctors [livescience.com] can google cases and find answers speaks alot about the dissemination of knowledge on the web. You just have to know how to get at it and simple critical skills come in handy there.

Someone i was having a discussion with the other day raised the question: considering all the information we have today are we becoming smarter or merely more informed. hmmmm... I'll leave that as an pondering exercise to the the /. reader.

Re:It's not tech that they are missing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#16873712)

I'll leave that as an pondering exercise to the the /. reader.

I think you made an mistake. :) Grammar skills are suffering today, also.

Virginia SOL (4, Interesting)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873380)

Yes, that's really what they call the benchmark tests, though it stands for "Standards Of Learning". They are terrific at determining how much "trivia" (for lack of a better term) can be memorized by children, and regurgitated on a test. It's gotten so bad that SOL preparation takes up a substantial portion of the learning year. I have a colleague who moved here from NY around the middle of last year, and his kids nearly flunked several of their subjects. The reason was SOL based teaching - much of it is Virginia-history specific, apparently, and having spent 4-6 years in New York schools (which, apparently, are not part of the Great State of Virginia) did not know the minutiae taught here in order to pass the standard learning tests. This year they're doing great, having had the opportunity to memorize the appropriate facts from day one. This is not the kind of learning that will benefit these kids when they enter the real world.

Re:Virginia SOL (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873624)

They are terrific at determining how much "trivia" (for lack of a better term) can be memorized by children, and regurgitated on a test.
...
This is not the kind of learning that will benefit these kids when they enter the real world.
You've never worked in my office, then. Trivia comes in very useful at the pub or on the links, and regurgitation is obviously a skill highly prized in those who seek to rise in management.

Re:Virginia SOL (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873826)

Oh, come on. When was the last time the name of the founder of Jamestown came up in casual conversation (that did not involve a Disney movie)?

Management, you say? Well, that settles it - we all know that there's are no critical thinking in management. ;-)

Re:It's not tech that they are missing... (4, Interesting)

nine-times (778537) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873664)

Careful, though, because there are school systems who have dismissed "regurgitation" like memorizing multiplication tables in favor of teaching "process". This results in people who can give you a general outline of problem-solving processes but can't solve problems. They neither have practice in solving problems, nor can they multiply 6x30 without a calculator.

So for young kids, I don't think it's either teaching them "facts" nor is it teaching them "process", but instead in might be something like "forcing them to practice". Given enough practice, kids will learn to memorize important information, throw away useless trivia and info they can look up, and discover their own best processes.

This sure explains a lot of things (1)

Anonymous Crowhead (577505) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873024)

Like Slashdot.

Maybe yes, maybe no... (1)

3p1ph4ny (835701) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873026)

I'm a student in EE/CprE at a state university, and I like to consider myself somewhat technically literate. I know various programming languages (C, Python, Java, PHP, etc), I know things about hardware design... the basics.

This article pointed out to me one thing - that I've never taken a formal class on how to use the internet. I suppose some of us 'just figure it out' and others don't.

Wow (1)

spellraiser (764337) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873034)

The findings link looks like an html document, but it redirects to a PDF file. Neat trick.

No wonder some people are confused over this interweb business ...

according to who? (2, Insightful)

destroygbiv (896968) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873044)

Basically, student answers didn't match up with the supposed "correct" answers. How do you even gauge the "objectivity" of a website, and how do you say somebody's assessment is incorrect? I don't think we have to worry about our college students. I'm sure pretty much all of them can utilize technology much more effectively than their parents can.

Re:according to who? (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873542)

I'm sure pretty much all of them can utilize technology much more effectively than their parents can.
I'm not so sure about that... I'm pretty sure most of them can utilize more technology than their parents, but I'm not at all sure that they can use it more effectively.

In terms of search (or in search terms, depending on how you look at it), a lot of older people are GREAT at using google effectively. After all, they used to have to manually search card catalogues at the library. The actual physical time spent searching the catalog meant that search strategies were optimized more so than by today's kids, who get instant search results.

Re:according to who? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#16873802)

If there was a company in the business of making tests for hard-to-quantify things like scholastic ability, I bet they would have a vested interest in the outcome of this study.

Yes (5, Funny)

77Punker (673758) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873054)

Real conversation

Me: What program did you use to download all that pr0n?

Fellow Student: Windows 98

Me: Could you be a little more specific?

Student: Oh, Windows 98 SE

This stuff happens to me seemingly everyday. Don't even get me started on the argument I had with a CIS student over whether USB 2.0 is better than USB 1.1

Re:Yes (2, Funny)

kabocox (199019) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873152)

This stuff happens to me seemingly everyday. Don't even get me started on the argument I had with a CIS student over whether USB 2.0 is better than USB 1.1

Which was better?

Re:Yes (3, Funny)

Hijacked Public (999535) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873246)

Firewire

Re:Yes (2, Funny)

14CharUsername (972311) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873516)

USB 1.1 obviously, since it's "full speed" and usb 2.0 is "hi speed". USB 2.0 may be hi speed so its better than USB 1.0, but full speed is the best because you can't go any faster than full speed.

Another real conversation (1)

Constantine XVI (880691) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873160)

This one with a CS student:
I was discussing different OS's and he is steadfast in his beliefs (even after showing facts otherwise) that:
-Windows XP is based off of DOS (It's actually loosely based on the OS/2 NT project)
-Mac OSX is based off Mac OS 9, and sucks (actually NeXT)
-Palm OS looks like no desktop OS, and therfore sucks
-Unix is crap
and...
-Linux is rooted in DOS

Re:Another real conversation (1)

k_187 (61692) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873258)

so what was his point?

Re:Another real conversation (1)

77Punker (673758) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873314)

The screen is black with white text on it, therefore it must be very similar to DOS.

Re:Another real conversation (1)

Chosen Reject (842143) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873608)

I was talking to a Senior level CS student in an "Internet Programming" class. I mentioned that I wish we did more Internet programming and less web programming. He looked at me blankly and asked, "Is there a difference?"

Sad state of affairs as far as I'm concerned.

Yes. (4, Insightful)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873060)

Are College Students Techno Idiots?

If, by "college students," we mean "most college students," just like we mean "most people" when we ask, "are people techno idiots?"

Honestly, answers to a question like that, in this venue, are going to be so distorted by the abnormal slashdot nerd density as to be meaningless when talking about a wider demographic. My personal experience with most college students is that they are just as much in the "it's just magic, and it works" (as well as the "my computer is so slow! it won't even run the new free stuff I download any more!") camp as the average non-college-student person.

The "technical" stuff with which they're comfortable (as in, feel mastery thereof) are the dedicated-purpose devices that don't really let you hose them up (phones, cameras, simple MP3 players, etc). But they don't know how or why any of it works any more than they know how or why their car, their democracy, their adrenal glands, or the free WiFi at Panera works. And I'm not just talking about the liberal arts majors.

Re:Yes. (3, Funny)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873156)

Frankly, I'm astonished that it broke 50%. I think we should be celebrating... no I'm not kidding. If this study is correct, it has significantly RAISED my expectations.

Re:Yes. (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873536)

I completely agree -- and I'm a college student myself! The stupidity in general, and technological stupidity in particular, is astounding even here at a seemingly "good" school.

Re:Yes. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#16873640)

I think the premise is that college students are somehow the "elite" of society. Maybe the same view my grandfather had of people when he came out of the coal mines to see the thinkers at their desk jobs. Unfortunately for the study, times have changed. Colleges are filled with idiots who think that college automatically means more money therefore they go there. There seems to be as many people who are smart enough to leverage their talents in trades who don't go to college as idiots who go there.

I write distance learning software (5, Insightful)

fishdan (569872) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873062)

And I've felt guilty about the fact that some people who should not be taking distance learning are signing up for courses. I've also been irritated by the repeat calls to the helpdesk on topics that it is reasonable to expect a "distance learner" to know how to do.

As a result we developed an information literacy class that is a required component for taking a Distance Learning class, and it is of course contained within our (home grown) Distance Learning platform. If you have not passed IL, you can't get to any of your other classes.

Because we've got a home grown app, we were able to put in alot of specific things (how to submit an assignment, how to send an email to a specific address, how to upload a file, how to download a file and then find it again). It's the way of things. You can't blame the users if they are incompetent. You either have to ensure they are competent, or block them from using the system, and give them an opportunity to learn and demonstrate their competancy

Re:I write distance learning software (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873324)

I think the main problem there is that as a society, we tell everyone that 'you can do anything, if you put your mind to it' and that's simply not true. Everyone has areas in which they excel, and areas in which they fail badly. If you accept that about yourself, and work with it, you'll be much happier. Instead, we teach them to try the very things they will most likely fail at.

Some of them make it. Don't get me wrong. But most, including some of the 'successes', are miserable about it.

I'm am not a creative person. I'm simply very logical. I -want- to draw and play music. I'm just really really bad at it. Did I go to art school to try to become mediocre at it? NO. I used my talents and I'm happy with that.

It's the same with 'distance learning.' Some are very well suited to it. Others need the extra guidance a teacher's presence allows. They'd do well to admit it and save themselves, and everyone around them, a lot of trouble.

Re:I write distance learning software (1)

kabocox (199019) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873474)

Because we've got a home grown app, we were able to put in alot of specific things (how to submit an assignment, how to send an email to a specific address, how to upload a file, how to download a file and then find it again). It's the way of things. You can't blame the users if they are incompetent. You either have to ensure they are competent, or block them from using the system, and give them an opportunity to learn and demonstrate their competancy

You might as well do it for your computer labs as well. I went to college from 1996-2000. I couldn't believe the number of CS minors didn't know what a zip file was or how to unzip a file, or how to save to a floppy and open it back through explorer rather than the word/excel/notepad open file menu. I didn't learn windows key E until after college, but I knew how to use the file explorer. What really got me was the differences in expectations from professors. Some professors expected 1/3 of the class to not have any computer skills that the professor hasn't taught them. Others thought that you should be able to pickup a 4000 level book and instantly know that subject for their 2000 level class. I work as a gneral computer guy. My boss thinks that I should instantly/magically know how to use/explain anything computer related. Esp. things that I've never heard of before or seen before.

Actually, the summary has nothing to little to do with tech. It has everything to do with evaluating sources, searching for information, and presenting information. This is speech/communication/library skills stuff not tech.

Re:I write distance learning software (1)

elphins.son (1021355) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873958)

I didn't learn windows key E until after college, but I knew how to use the file explorer.

I've been using file explorer (and its earlier iterations) since Win 3.1 days (i.e. before the "windows key" existed), and I didn't know about that key combination until just now...

Re:I write distance learning software (1)

Pantero Blanco (792776) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873554)

Personally, I've had more questions about how to use Distance Learning software from teachers than students. Most of the students have at least a decent amount of Internet experience and understand how to upload a file or post on a web forum; even someone who spends all day playing Quake or posting on MySpace will pick that up.

Many of the teachers (generally in English or Social Studies), on the other hand, have trouble with even the most basic functions. Worse, they often blame their students (or the software, of course) for their own mistakes.

Not "Techno" idiots (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#16873100)

This has nothing to do with technology and is just basically critical thinking and analytical skills

Re:Not "Techno" idiots (1)

wiz31337 (154231) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873646)

Exactly!

Ones ability to process information is not directly correlated with technology. It doesn't matter if they are using a webpage or a real book [GASP].

They asked participants to "select a research statement for a class assignment." Unless they had to select the research statement randomly by writing a Java program this is not an issue of being a "Techno idiot."


The participants were then asked to "[assess] the objectivity of the [a web site.]" Would the results have been any different if they asked them to assess the objectivity of information found in the news paper?

There was one issue that may have actually discussed technology, ones ability to narrow down search results. However, would the results have been the same if the users had used a card catalog, assuming that the (see also) tags were removed. (For those of you that have never seen a card catalog [wikipedia.org] )

Not a surprise unfortunately... (2, Interesting)

garcia (6573) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873106)

The findings show that students don't know how to judge the authoritativeness or objectivity of web sites, can't narrow down an overly broad search, and can't tailor a message to a particular audience.

1. Isn't everything on see on the Internet true?

2. Google figures out everything you need to know anyway.

3. U mean thy use txt speech insted of reg typng on tsts?

---

In all seriousness, I'm not surprised by anything these days. I work for a two year college and there are programs that offer money to "college ready" high school students (no remedial work necessary) and there was a HS principal (this week) that when told about the program said, "none of our students would qualify, don't even bother to bring it up."

Why should these studies even worry about topics like this when students aren't even placing into 100/1000 level courses when they "graduate" high school?

Re:Not a surprise unfortunately... (1)

Fahrenheit 450 (765492) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873956)

Actually, I'm wondering how they measure judging the authoritativeness of a web site.

There are a number of things I could write about and slap them up on the internet for people to read, and while they would be quite factual and well written, someone not familiar with the subject would have a hard time telling if that were the case. After all, there's no reason to trust me -- most people haven't a clue who I am. And even if I were to add references, I could either make them to general works, or to obscure works that most people wouldn't bother to track down for verification.

The problem is even worse when you're dealing with sites like wikipedia. Some of the articles are indeed authoritative, some are utter crap, and some are in between. And of course there's the problem of authoritative articles that have been made subtly inaccurate.

It doesn't seem like the easiest thing to judge authoritativeness without some pre-existing knowledge or at least a chain of trust.

Programming students might be the worse... (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873108)

I been going to school part-time for the last five years to learn programming. (This is my second tour through college as I got my General Education associate degree in 1994.) A lot of programming students will learn only what the instructors put in front of them. Very few students have the initiative to read or program outside of the classroom. What's taught in the class may meet the academic requirements but I wouldn't try to get a job based on that. I've told recruiters that I understand programming concepts and can read code, but I'm not a programmer per se since I have no actual work experience.

When a woman friend accused me of hacking her Google email filters (not true but it's a long story), I died laughing as I pointed out that I wasn't taught enough at school to become a script kiddie. Besides, if I did hacked Google's email filters, why didn't they offer me a job? Boy, she was pissed.

Re:Programming students might be the worse... (1)

chroot_james (833654) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873334)

when I first started school there were about 600-700 kids in computer science. after the first year we were down to 300. when the 3rd year started we were down to around 150. by the time I graduated, my class was about 100 kids.

my point is that if kids can't program, they should be given f's so they can either learn they're not cut out for programming or they can start working harder. computer science is a lot more than just clicking around on a computer...

"Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them."
- Flannery O'Connor (1925-1964)

Re:Programming students might be the worse... (1)

hal2814 (725639) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873634)

"computer science is a lot more than just clicking around on a computer..."

Computer Science is also a lot more than just programming. There are plenty of theory guys who aren't all that sharp when it comes to actual programming but very much belong in Computer Science. I'm not saying they shouldn't be given F's in programming-specific classes if they deserve it, but there are plenty of CS degree paths that don't do much more than entry level programming and that is a good thing.

Digital generation (4, Interesting)

porkThreeWays (895269) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873154)

That's about right. I always see these news stories about the digital generation and generation myspace, etc, etc. They'll show some kid downloading music, chatting on AIM, going on myspace, and playing some game in flash on a website. The parents go on how great he can multitask and how great he is on the computer, blah, blah, blah.

The truth is, many kids just find a few things they really like and latch onto them. They don't really understand any sort of computing fundamentals. They understand how to go on AIM and myspace all day. When faced with a computer intensive task that relies on critical thinking and not just keystroke habits, they fall flat on their face.

Re:Digital generation (2, Insightful)

archen (447353) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873916)

As an extension of what you're saying, I was discussing with my wife about digital knowledge vs age. The former joke used to be if you didn't know how to do it, then you pay some kid down the street to show you how to use your computer. I think we're over the "it's new" hump and that's no longer a given. She used to say her little brother (he's 3) would be a computer wizard that would run circles around us all one day, but I think she's seen enough kids now days who are just point and click masters who don't have the skills to do something as simple as HTML - she's kind of retracted that statement now.

At this point I'm sure it's just going to be a matter of time before popular opinion catches up with the reality. I'm sure people were the same when cars first appeared and old fogies didn't know how to work them. I doubt anyone in the 70's assumed a kid was a wizard mechanic just because he'd been around cars all his life.

These must be the same students... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#16873162)

...who are so bad at geography they can't find the Earth on a globe. Every once in a while we get reports like that for highschool students. I guess they finally managed to graduate. Then again, average IQ is 100. I got into a casual conversation on the topic one time, and this real idiot girl volunteered here IQ--105. Wow. If that really is "slightly above average", then these studies make a lot of sense.

A Switch (1)

Himring (646324) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873176)

Reminds me of hooking up a five port switch once for this lady. She points at it and says, "is that the Internet?"

Breakdown by Major (1)

SlashdotOgre (739181) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873178)

I'm curious if majors had a significant correlation. At first I'd expect electrical/computer engineering/science majors to fair well. However when you factor in that this is ofter more of a test of research skills and critical thinking, than I can see that helping liberal arts majors as well.

Sample Questions? (1)

Pantero Blanco (792776) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873190)

I tried to view the sample questions on their site, but I couldn't...Despite the fact that I have Flash 9, it kept trying to redirect me to "get flash". I'll have to see at least a few of the examples before I regard this study as authoritative.

A study done by PB Inc has found that 92% of Americans have trouble determining if surveys and studies are trustworthy, a figure that has tripled in the past six months.

Is this new? (1)

schabot (941087) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873212)

students don't know how to judge the authoritativeness or objectivity of web sites, can't narrow down an overly broad search, and can't tailor a message to a particular audience.

Who says they don't fail at reading books as well?

It isn't just about tech... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#16873224)

This isn't really about technology. Swap the web sites for
newspaper or magazine articles (or pretty much anything) and
I bet you'll arrive at the same findings...

Most people are just not very "smart". The skills you use
to narrow a search are the same skills you use to debug
software, repair an automobile or determine the correct treatment
for a medical condition... You know, the stuff most people
can't do.

Don't Blame the Students, Blame the Schools (0, Offtopic)

MSTCrow5429 (642744) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873278)

This should not come as any surprise, where most students are from the failed government schooling system, and most colleges are little more than glorified trade schools or propagators of the latest wacky idea en vogue.

This is not suprising in the least (2, Insightful)

Ynsats (922697) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873280)

I went to a school that ranks in the top five on Wired's Most Wired Campuses list. I work for a company that builds advanced computer systems with capabilities far beyond the average joe's imagination. Since my youngest days I have been surrounded by computers and technologically astute people. All of these intelligent people with vast amounts knowledge and experience yet, when it comes to things like emails, I get nothing but urban legends and forwards, even after I debunk thier tripe with snopes.com. If they need to find something on the internet, they ask me for help.

I think the problem lies not in comprehension ability but in the ability to ask the right question to get what you want. The way people are taught to solve problems in school affects how they solve problems in life. It doesn't help any that so few students actually grasp the idea behind problem solving and even less are any good at actually doing it. Most people see a problem that has a solution or a question that has an answer. If they don't get the right solution, they immediatly think that there is something wrong with that question or problem or how they worked it out. They waste time and energy trying to find thier mistake. In reality, the first thing that should be taught is if you are asking a question and not getting the answer you expected, maybe you are not asking the right question.

To illustrate the point, working in IT, I, like many others, have had an opportunity at one point to have the luxury of operating a help desk hotline. What fun! The most tedious part is getting the clueless user on the other end to get you the information you need to solve thier problem and send them on thier blissfully merry way. I cannot count the number of times I asked a question that seemed entirely sane to me only to recieve the most insane answer from the user that I never expected. At first I would be frustrated and blame the user and bring in to question thier level of intelligence. Eventually I learned that it might not be the user...or anybody for that matter. There is a communication break down because of different realms of knowledge relating to both parties involved. For me to get the answers I needed, I had to find creative ways to rephrase the question. I asked numerous users the same questions 9 different ways from Sunday and very few actually figured out that I asked the same question over and over again, just in a way to shift the focus of the question to get the right detail I needed in an answer.

Search engines work much the same way. If you didn't get the results you wanted, rephrase the search terms or change the priority of the terms in the search string. The same principle can be applied to questioning the validity of a website. Unfortunatly, this way of dealing with a problem is not taught at school. It is also unfortunate that it would be difficult to do so without real world application. The fact that so few actually eventually pick it up later in life is a testament to the idea that there something fundamentally wrong with how we teach and develop problem solving skills at an earlier age than college. These kids should be entering higher education with the foundations of these skills already laid. If they were, there wouldn't be these cognitive problem solving issues.

Re:This is not suprising in the least (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873722)

Unfortunatly, this way of dealing with a problem is not taught at school. It is also unfortunate that it would be difficult to do so without real world application.

Obviously, the solution is to make all gradeschool students work at helpdesks!

Its like kids who were raised by their TV... (1)

rubberbando (784342) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873302)

They start to think that everything on they hear on TV is real or true, only this generation is one that was raised on the internet instead....

It just goes to show you (1)

plopez (54068) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873352)

make something easy enough for monkeys to use and monkeys will end up using it.

Re:It just goes to show you (1)

Shai-kun (728212) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873590)

...and ONLY monkeys will use it.

Revenge of the Liberal Arts Majors (5, Insightful)

borkus (179118) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873398)

I was an English major and made my way into IT through the workplace. I constantly encounter situations where I use my college skills to write and speak clearly. In fact, I'm struck by how well those skills have aged at this point in my career versus the skills of IT/CS majors my age (I'm 40).

So, for Computer Science/IT/MIS majors, I'd recommend the following -

  • Take at least one class a year outside of your field that requires writing assignments. It can be in Literature, History, Economics,Psychology - whatever interests you - but learning about diverse subjects and being able to write in response keeps your writing skills honed and your abstract reasoning skills sharp. Also, learning outside of your major may help apply your technical skills to real life domains.
  • Take a Public Speaking class. Some degree programs require it, but anyone who graduates from a university should be able to give a coherent oral presentation. Most Public Speaking classes aren't just about the mechanics of speaking (vocal projection, enunciation, body language and eye contact) but also how to organize your thoughts and shape a presentation for a given audience and time frame. People won't see the value in your ideas if they don't understand what you're talking about.

Well? (1)

Kingrames (858416) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873414)

They are still students, after all...

This isnt tech (1)

xenocide2 (231786) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873448)

It's the same writing and research skills they're missing, but ON A COMPUTER!

In my opinion (2, Funny)

scenestar (828656) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873514)

Everyone who listens to techno is an idiot.

Oh wait, you meant the OTHER techno

This Just In... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#16873532)

This just in, students not automatically good at doing the things they came to school to learn.

I don't see why this is suprising. Being admitted to college does not mean you know everything, it means you are capable of learning. Determining authority and crafting good written work are difficult skills to learn and it is not reasonable to expect hight school students to be experts. That's why universities teach it.

Something I learned in college... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#16873548)

83% of all statistics are made up.

As a college student in the UK... (1)

GotenXiao (863190) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873578)

...I take offence to this.

My classmates might not. I doubt they read Slashdot.

What terribly ignorant students! (1)

exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873732)

Don't they realise that there's an objective way of precisely measuring the objectivity of a web site that every right-thinking (or did I mean left-thinking?) academic agrees with? Shame on them. It's not like objectivity is something you could dispute over.

This has as much to do with computer indexing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#16873756)

I'm having the same problem right now! Computerized search either gives too many opinion articles, or too much duplication.

There are far more blogs on any topic than bona fide research. Try sifting through "global warming" to find any real research.

In my case, the Google search "RPM subpackages manual dependencies" returns the same "Maximum RPM" article (which I already read at rpm.org) mirrored on every continent! After 5+ pages of that, I get useless pages where other people are asking the same question!

In the old days, the Dewey Decimal System indexed titles or topics, e.g. Biology. They often hit more relevant terms than Google.

Are College Students Techno Idiots? (1)

arkanoid (684793) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873772)

Yes, they are

Are you using the test correctly? (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873788)

This test uses simulated software which may be sufficiently different than what the person is used to that his test score suffers as a result. It's like giving a person a RPN calculator with instructions, then expecting him to be as proficient as he would be if he were using his own calculator.

Here's an example:
Many people may use a search engine that allows you to narrow a search by searching within previous results. This lessens and may eliminate the need to use "AND" altogether. The demo I saw required the student to use "AND" to get the correct score.

Let's assume this test's simulated software is similar to what your students will be using when doing real research.
IF your purpose is to find out if the students have proper training, and what additional training they need, then this is a evaluation useful tool.
IF you are using it to ask "why is Johnny a techo-idiot" or say "27% of college students are techno-idiots" when the real answer may be something as reasonable as "27% of college students just don't know your system yet, so teach him" then you aren't using the test correctly.

Why should life be different online? (1)

supersnail (106701) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873864)

I mean how many people buy the National Enquirer believing its a newspaper?
How many people watch Fox news thinking its just the same as CBS used to be?
Eric von Danikens chariot of the Gods was a best seller.
People believe George W Bush is just folks from Texas.

These results are pretty good compared with the results for old media.

Uhm, yes, they are. (1)

Kankraka (936176) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873876)

At least in my experience anyways. Most of the college students I know, run limewire and wonder why their computers run like crap. Gee, could it be the spyware and viruses? I think there should be a one week course on preventing this before anyone is allowed to use the internet.

We're too visual (3, Informative)

cvd6262 (180823) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873900)

I'll point us back to a couple of /. posts.

First, Nature found that people judge websites in a few milliseconds:
http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/01/1 7/0342224 [slashdot.org]

Then Harvard and Cal find that phishing works because people judge too much on the visual presentation:
http://it.slashdot.org/it/06/03/30/1556226.shtml [slashdot.org]

Now we see that people are poor judges of content. Quite close to A + B = C.

Highly Ironic? (1)

YahoKa (577942) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873904)

Maybe I have no ICT skills, but I've looked at the stuff on their website, and I call BS on their assessment. How ironic that I find that their study that says people like me have no information skills calls the information the give total crap.

Take a look at their flash demo. I think they pull this out of their asses pretty much. Not to say that any college students (myself included) do have critical thinking skills, but let's not get our knickers in a knot.

Certainly the end of the world.... (2, Insightful)

fatdaveinthesky (783750) | more than 6 years ago | (#16873938)

..of Warcraft. This is not anything surprising, and is not limited to those tubes on the internets. As people are constantly bombarded with spin or outright falsification, it becomes increasingly difficult to actually discern what is legitimate, objective information from what is not. Mass media constantly and actively subverts peoples' critical reasoning skills in order to convince them to buy an item or believe a statement based on limited or dubious claims. They purposely subvert and abuse data in order to create pseudo-scientific claims of validity. Corporations and political parties are especially guilty of this. But it extends much deeper when fundamental research is compromised in an effort to build data for a claim. Think tanks, R&D labs, and even research units at universities are often funded by organizations with an inherent conflicting interest in the objective conclusions of the research conducted. With so many competing and conflicting claims of validity, the decision to be an idiot is a rational statement on utility. When actually getting to the bottom of some claim, weighing evidence on multiple sides, and making judgements on their validity becomes excessively time-consuming or difficult, it is much easier and better to just go along for the ride. Everyone does this, to a certain degree. You have to find some source of information that is trusted, since it is impossible to independently verify every claim you see. But outside of incredibly boring peer-reviewed scientific journals that often bear little impact on peoples' daily lives, almost every other source of information from CNN to Fox News can have significant questions of trustworthiness, bias, or objectivity raised against it. It's almost miraculous when people can work out ingenious ways to actually wade through all of the crap with any degree of success at all, such as Google searches or Wikipedia. Make no mistake, civilization and progress are intimately connected to the ability for mankind to learn. Truth is under a relentless unresting attack by organized interests. - Reality has a well-known liberal bias. Stephen Colbert
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