The Education Guardian has an interview with Tara Brabazon. While I think that she has some good ideas, such as giving her first year students a list of 200 or so extracts of papers, to use as references for their essays (I do hope, however, that either they’re available online or in sufficient quantities that students can get hold of them). 200 or so does, of course give plenty of scope for students to read several, select those with contrasting view points to discuss, but not so few as to be seen to be “spoon feeding” them.
However, she also says:
Students must not be allowed to accept as truth anything they can find through Google, including “facts” given credence by Wikipedia. User-generated content, she maintains, is creating an age of banality and mediocrity, and stifling debate.
I’m assuming that she would allow them to use Google to locate other academics websites, to use Google Scholar to find new references, to use Wikipedia quoted sources (especially those that are academic sites etc) to create their own reviews – and/ or to improve the Wikipedia site, as Martha Groom has done.
And bloggers? “People I didn’t want to talk to at high school are trying to force me to listen to them again,” she says. “Yet so many wonderful books are published every day, providing the best research material in the world.”
Again, some blogs may well be the starting points for academic research; may contain reviews of books, may contain current research – in that gap between having the idea, and actually getting the book published. Alternatively, it may just be a student reflecting on their learning. Not all blogs are the same…
Looking at published material; most people would intrinsically trust a report about a new cure for Influenza more if they read it in, say, The British Medical Journal than they would if they read it in The Sun. That’s not to say that Sun is wrong, any more than the BMJ is right. It’s just the level of cross referencing you’d be likely to do to check up.
Today’s students need to learn that ability to cross check for websites, as well as for paper based resources.