Monday, June 25, 2007


You know, I've been thinking about education's (in general) and the library's (in specific) anti-google and anti-wikipedia rallying cry. I bought into it at first, and during my practicum would bore students with my "wikipedia and google are bad" rants. But I also realized I was being a complete hypocrite. I'm a student at Pitt, so have access to some pretty incredible databases. Yet the first place I often look is Google--in fact, I often find it easier to find what I need on Google than trying to scour the mess that is Ebsco.

Now, I completely understand the reservations about these two services, and the read/write web. The majority of students use them in a fairly brain-dead sort of way. But they use their texts in the same manner, and we work to re-educate them about active reading. Shouldn't we be doing the same with Web 2.0 tools? I spent hours teaching students the difference between a journal and a diary. Why shouldn't I spend equal time teaching the difference between a journal and a blog? (Will Richardson's book suggests some excellent scaffolding for this.)

Fighting Google, Wiki and My Space is a losing battle. They're quick; they're easy. Rather than telling students not to use them, shouldn't we be training them to use them WISELY? Go ahead and look up your topic on Wiki, but only as a way to find further information. Find information on Google, but you better check the databases, too. The easiest way to do this, of course, would be to require certains types of references. A two books, two database articles, one web page kind of thing. With millions of webpages generated each day, students must learn to assess the infoglut for relevance and authority. Banning them from it completely will never achieve this.

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