Thursday, March 18, 2010

Online research - advantages & pitfalls

One of the greatest advantages of being a student doing research today is, unfortunately, also one of the greatest hazards. Sitting in the comfort of your own home you can access unimaginable amounts of information that previously would have required manually searching through a variety of books in a variety of physical locations.

However, with this ease of access come the perils of copying and pasting. Suddenly the possibility of plagiarism, whether intentional or accidental, looms much larger.

Thanks to Mrs. Sachdeva, our Technology Specialist, for pointing me towards this Tech & Learning magazine blog post, "Copy. Paste. Done." It is an important read for both parents and educators.

As you help your student surf the internet looking for information for an assignment, observe what they are doing. Are they looking for information they can synthesize on their own to create a new whole? Or are they looking for a site that provides "the answers" ready made for them?

A friend of mine who is a university librarian has observed that even undergraduates come into the library hoping to find a book or database or website that will hand them "the answer" to their professor's assignment. The reality is that higher level thinking requires us to find the data and then select and interpret it ourselves. Students who learn this earlier in life will become more competent and responsible users of online information, as well as more critical and original thinkers.

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