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‘Drowning in information while starving for wisdom’. Helping students to maximise their online searching


Morrison, R, Drowning in information while starving for wisdom'. Helping students to maximise their online searching, Scan the Journal for Educators, 40, (1) pp. 22-38. ISSN 2202-4557 (2021) [Professional, Refereed Article]

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While the use of internet search engines for research has flourished in recent decades, we are still learning about how teachers can best support students in using these tools effectively. Understandably, the Australian Curriculum requires students to become adept at investigating with ICT during their school years. In this paper, Renee Morrison discusses much research, both Australian and international, that suggests many students are poorly informed about the function of search engines. They lack the metalanguage required to discuss their engagement with internet search and rarely adopt a proactive role in their search for information, often limiting the resultant educational benefits. She argues that passive involvement is of concern for a number of reasons, including the commercially driven bias of search engines such as Google; the dispersal of misinformation; and users’ predilection to believe that search engines are an indisputable fount of knowledge.

The article includes the review of a comprehensive range of research regarding a ‘search skill deficit’ amongst school students and regarding the relationship between language (or discourse) and online search. In addition, Morrison’s own studies confirm a need for concern about the ways students engage with search engines. She claims that a greater understanding of the metalanguage relating to internet searching and effective discourse between educators and students about online search activities can cultivate strategies leading to ‘deep-level’ search practices.

By using the analogy of driving a car, Morrison asserts that students should be encouraged to play an active role when searching, and ‘drive’ their search engine. She suggests that teachers can better cultivate effective use of online search tools by:
  • modelling metalanguage and its use
  • modelling critical thinking surrounding online search and its functions
  • teaching students to script and rescript appropriate search queries
  • explaining the significance of domain extensions such as .com, .edu, .gov and .au
  • teaching criteria for evaluating websites
For those seeking more detail on cultivating effective use of internet search engines, the following article provides a significant selection of research literature. In addition, it recommends the explicit teaching of skills for researching using digital technologies so that students are empowered and become productive users of search engines.

Item Details

Item Type:Professional, Refereed Article
Keywords:Search engine, Google, information seeking, home education, critical discourse analysis, digital pedagogy, homeschool
Research Division:Information and Computing Sciences
Research Group:Human-centred computing
Research Field:Computing education
Objective Division:Information and Communication Services
Objective Group:Media services
Objective Field:Internet, digital and social media
UTAS Author:Morrison, R (Dr Renee Morrison)
ID Code:147483
Year Published:2021
Deposited By:Education
Deposited On:2021-11-04
Last Modified:2021-11-15

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