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Avoiding the University of Google

Several recent studies are confirming the experience of many academics: that an internet/search-engine culture is powerfully affecting students’ learning. Referencing works such as Tara Barabazon’s The University of Google: Education in the (Post) Information Age and the 2008 CIBER study of trends in information behaviour, Cathie Jackson highlighted the quite profound influences of this environment in which reading becomes “power browsing”, abstracts are favoured over complete writings and all sources are considered equal. Enabling students to develop information literacy skills is critical in this respect and Cardiff has been at the forefront of activity, establishing resources and working within programmes to ensure that students are equipped to navigate this information landscape.

Dr Stephen Thornton described how, in School of European Studies (Politics), he had undertaken a pilot study involving the integration of information literacy into the Y1 curriculum. Scaled up over several sessions, the pilot involved a series of diagnostic questionnaires relating to the types of information students had accessed, their experiences in finding appropriate materials and their evaluative skills combined with a requirement to produce a research trail as part of their assessment. A breakdown of the findings is given in the slides and Dr Thornton’s presentation from the 2008 PSA conference. In general terms, the pilot emphasised the benefits of embedding information literacy elements within modules while noting the pitfalls of both students and staff interpreting such work as an ‘artifical’ exercise or a ‘distraction’ from the core subject content.thornton1

Rebecca Mogg demonstrated the range of materials on information literacy now available to Cardiff students. The Information Literacy Resource Bank has been considerably extended, a series of guides on citing references is available and the “Student Survival Guide to Writing a Good Essay” series of podcasts represents an innovative audio resource for students in a genre most fitting for the ‘Google generation’.