Jenny Luca has kicked an excellent post about why bare URLS are a problem – and well worth reading, as this post has a lot to do with what Jenny’s saying. Mostly, this post is about a new semantic search machine called Blekko (read some background here) – and why it’s appearance is really important to Jenny’s observations. Those who watched the ‘virtual revolution‘ we’re watching history. Those who watched ‘A vision of K12 today‘ on YouTube may be somewhat more literate if they understand some of the language, concepts and issues – but both are popular narratives, but fail to address the core issue – that to most teachers – this is arcane information, but to most students it is just ‘life’.
Society is now so used to Google making choices and recommendations for them, that even the most illiterate can find something online.
While we used to encourage people to learn about ‘boolean searches’ to find more relevant information and tune in our search, Google has responded with Google Instant. Now you only have to type a few letters, and Google can align you with it’s preferential content and idle hands are no longer clicking ‘search’ but simply arrow-keying down. This is not an improvement for enquiry, let alone literacy.
It as not as important to be able to find information online (which is ridiculously simple), as it is to understand how and why it was created, and in what context it is being used.
Typical views of academic literacy such as this one for an undergraduate teaching course – do not take into account what Jenny is talking about, or the need for tools like Blekko . Functional literacy and old habits that gravitate to print-based writing, typically essays and largely ignore information fluency.
We are still telling teacher’s that if we add a bit of Web2.0 then we will have 21C classrooms – and when it gets tricky we can duck back into dialogues about ‘the exam makes me do it like this’. Maybe it does … but that doesn’t mean it’s right.
Blekko requires you to understand the nature of information production, the places in which it resides, how it is aggregated, shared and compiled for personal use. It combines concepts that we learned about (or not) though the Web2.0 years.
All materials we use to learn from require (and often assume) that we have internal specialised knowledge in order to read them – such as maths, biology, language text books – websites, youtube or video games.
Right now, I think tools such as Blekko, Evri, Mendeley, Wikipedia, Evernote, Zotero, Twitter etc., are absolutely essential experiences for teachers and students to make sense of the web. This is not on content-grabbing mode, but in learning to be literate – it’s a sad reality that the Australian solution to this problem – is National Curriculum – and giant leap backwards.