17 January 2008

Hey, I know her....

Techdirt is reporting on a story about a lecturer at the University of Brighton who has banned her students from using Google in writing their papers. Prof. Brabazon has claimed that too many students were taking the easy way out and regurgitating the first few search results for their assignments.

This seems to be another case of blaming the technology for what is really human laziness. If a student can't be bothered to research their assignments properly, then they should get poor grades. Then, they'll either fail the course or learn to research properly.

Banning Google and Wikipedia is not the answer. When I did history at Victoria University (in 1994), the first assignment was on how to use the library. We had about 20 questions, and in finding the answers to those questions, had to learn the layout of the library, the call number system, etc.

The solution to Prof. Brabazon's problem would seem to be an assignment designed to teach students how to use tools like Google and Wikipedia, making sure that students learn what these tools are not -- an alternative to thinking, or to proper research.

I was a little surprised when I read this story. Prof. Brabazon took the final third of Hist105 (waaaay back in 1994), and I always thought of her as a more technologically clued up lecturer (who once used an episode of Fawlty Towers to demonstrate a point).

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