‘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]
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.
Professional, Refereed Article
Search engine, Google, information seeking, home education, critical discourse analysis, digital pedagogy, homeschool