The Reader


Fall 2007  Page 11

Info, Info, Everywhere, and Not a Drop to Drink

The following article by Marybeth Buechner, CRC Biology Professor, is reprinted from the newsletter of the Center for the Advancement of Staff and Student Learning (CASSL) at Cosumnes River College.

Consider the implications for your classroom if:

Educational Research Review:  Info, info, everywhere, and not a drop to drink.

A recent article from the Faculty Resource Network notes that the ubiquitous use of technological tools by our “millennial” students doesn’t mean that they have the intellectual tools to analyze data or judge the validity or reliability of the information that they obtain from the sources on the Internet (1).

Over 90% of US school children under 17 who use the Internet use it for schoolwork and many say it is the major source of research information for school reports.  The millennial college students have been using the computer since they were very young; 20% have been computer users since they were 8 years old or younger.  Nearly three-fourths of today’s college students use e-mail every day. (2) There can be little doubt that we have a technology focused student population, at least in some senses.

In spite of integration of technology into their everyday lives, the evidence suggests that high school and college students aren’t particularly good at evaluating the information that they find on the Internet.  Trail and Gutierrez note that “With information bombarding them from all sides, students have little basis on which to judge the value of what they find nor have most of them formed the habit of critical evaluation. Many students equate typing a broad topic into a Web browser with doing research.” (1). There seems to be a substantial gap between the ability of students to access information and their ability to evaluate its accuracy or significance.

Betsy Barefoot wrote in the Jan 2006 Chronicle of Education that “few first year college students can easily distinguish fact from fiction in online and print sources, and even fewer have ever been exposed to the scholarly resources that can be found in a college or university library.” (3). A survey of California professors noted that incoming college students “cannot adequately analyze information or arguments and cannot synthesize information from multiple sources. Only a minority can evaluate online resources”.  The same study found that professors indicate that only about 1/3 of entering students are sufficiently prepared to analyze or synthesize information (4). 


(1)    Trail MA and R Stockton, 2006, Familiarity Breeds Misconceptions? Information Technology Savvy Millennials Show Surprising Information Literacy Skill Deficits, Network: A Journal of Faculty Development,

(2)    Rainie, L, Kalchoff M, and Hess D, (2005) Pew Internet & American Life Project Data Memo [Online].  Cited in Trail and Gutierrez (see above)

(3)   Barefoot, B, 2006  “Bridging the Chasm: First-Year Students and the Library.” Chronicle of Higher Education 52(20) B16.

(4)   Academic Literacy: A Statement of Competencies Expected of Students Entering California’s Public Colleges and Universities 2002Intersegmental committee of the CCC Academic Senate, CSU, and UC.


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