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In an attempt to wean her students off of what she calls ‘white bread for the mind’ one University of Brighton professor has banned her students from using either Google or Wikipedia in their research for the first year of study. Instead, in what many will consider a neo-Luddite move, they get given a selection of some 200 peer-reviewed printed text extracts as research material.

The professor of media studies is no newbie, looking to get noticed, either. Tara Babazon has been teaching at university level for no less than 18 years. But an article in The Times suggests that Brabazon thinks the ‘University of Google’ is producing a generation of students ill equipped with the skills they require to be able to interpret and filter online information, a generation reliant upon unreliable information and with no true sense of academic curiosity.

Continuing the white bread analogy, Brabazon insists that “Google is filling, but it does not necessarily offer nutritional content.”

Of course, Brabazon is not alone in believing that the Internet has created a flattened expertise research facility where every personalised truth appears as equal and as valid as the next but in reality most are at best unsubstantiated opinion. What she is suggesting is that students need to be taught how to think, in a dynamic and critical sense, before they Go Google. The argument being that in the pre-digital education research age this ability to think about information was less critical as printed text books, on the whole, were subject to a peer review process and much more likely to be factual than the data free for all that the web provides.

Blaming Google or Wikipedia, however, is wrong. Instead the attention needs to be focused upon the education system itself. Surely if it is churning out young adults with no concept of being able to filter the information before them, no ability to make informed decisions, none of that dynamic thinking that Brabazon is talking about then it has failed our children miserably. Used properly the web, and tools such as Google and Wikipedia, offer the opportunity to greatly improve learning not to hinder it. Let’s get back to basics and start producing interested, energetic and thoughtful students rather than academic automatons simply looking for the laziest route to a degree…

As Editorial Director and Managing Analyst with IT Security Thing I am putting more than two decades of consulting experience into providing opinionated insight regarding the security threat landscape for IT security professionals. As an Editorial Fellow with Dennis Publishing, I bring more than two decades of writing experience across the technology industry into publications such as Alphr, IT Pro and (in good old fashioned print) PC Pro. I also write for SC Magazine UK and Infosecurity, as well as The Times and Sunday Times newspapers. Along the way I have been honoured with a Technology Journalist of the Year award, and three Information Security Journalist of the Year awards. Most humbling, though, was the Enigma Award for 'lifetime contribution to IT security journalism' bestowed on me in 2011.

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Last Post by bhutta2005
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She should take it further, and require all papers to be hand written without major spelling or grammatical errors.

Kids no longer don't learn to think for themselves, but also no longer learn to write properly or correctly without the help of spellcheckers and grammar checkers (and often not even using those...).

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I highly doubt she's actually blaming Google or Wikipedia. What I'm getting here is that she's trying to teach the students that they need to be able to think critically first before turning to those tools. I don't think she's wrong.

Jwenting, I don't agree with taking away the spell checker. While I will withhold comment on any sort of grammar checker, spell checking has become a norm that we have to learn to live with. Let's face it, it's downright faster to correct spelling mishaps for words you're not familiar with than to go fingering through your dictionary.

I might though, agree that a handwritten paper every now and then might be useful. If only to prevent students' handwritings from deteriorating.

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Spell checkers are useful tools for sure, but ever more people (and especially kids) are relying on them in lieu of learning to spell themselves.
I don't blame anyone for using a dictionary (yes, I have a series and use them for several languages) or spell checker (I use those too, though rarely do they catch me and most of the times they do they turn out to be wrong) for complex or unfamiliar words, but ever more people have to rely on a spellchecker (not even knowing how to read a dictionary) even for everyday words, especially words longer than 2 syllables.
That's a very worrying trend, and it starts with schoolkids.

Learn them to spell correctly and they'll have a skill that never dulls. They'll also have far less difficulty picking up and remembering the correct spelling of new words they encounter in the future.
When I was in highschool our teachers used to dictate exam assignments to us, and grade not just the answers but the writing on the questions as well for correct spelling.
You could get every answer correct but still fail the exam if you made too many spelling errors in taking down the questions.
Maybe a bit harsh, but it did teach 2 things:
1) rapid writing ;)
2) correct spelling.
Everyone came out of those courses with a vastly improved vocabulary.

And indeed, she probably doesn't blame those two services in particular. They're just picked out by a journalist because most people know them at least by name as centers of knowledge in the digital world.
It says clearly she gives her students a fixed set of papers to use as their sole source of information.

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