Thursday, July 18, 2013

Is the internet destroying academic skills?

When I was in college and graduate school, I remember going to the library, doing research and carrying home massive amounts of books for every major paper I had to do.  Every research paper was a significant effort and I was often proud of what I had finished when I was done with the paper.

Now, students, apparently, tend to rely almost exclusively on the internet to do their research.

This article points out that, these days, because of the internet, American students are having a more difficult time reading longer passages or books and that their writing skills are diminishing (decreasing, dropping) compared to students of previous generations.

Indeed, in this article it seems that students regularly just cut and paste from a site like Wikipedia to do their papers.  What's the problem? First of all, that is plagiarism (the stealing of text from another source); second of all, if you are plagiarizing from Wikipedia, that probably means it's the second time material has been plagiarized since most of Wikipedia is badly written and plagiarized material itself. 



Finally, the 'authors' of Wikipedia articles (as was reported here:
http://convostartersenglish.blogspot.com/2013/07/further-proof-that-wikipedia-is-garbage.html ) are anonymous and potentially lacking (lacking - not having something) in any academic skills.  As you can see from the article just cited, there is a core group of 500 - 1,500 people who dominate Wikipedia (some folks have lots of time on their hands) and nobody knows whether they have adequate academic backgrounds (the article mentions two mass-murderers who loved contributing to Wikipedia).

So the following article seems to imply that students are becoming lazier and less critical about their sources.  After all, if you do a search engine search for anything, it immediately presents a Wikipedia article and most people seem too lazy to even scroll down a little bit and find a REAL article written by someone who actually has spent a significant amount of time researching the subject.

The article:

http://www.theatlanticwire.com/national/2013/07/internet-making-writing-worse/67297/

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

teens and 'tweens - a teenager is someone between 13 and 19 - a 'tween is someone between childhood and teenage years...so a 'tween (short for 'between') might be 11 or 12 years old.

a survey - a number of teachers were contacted and asked questions and their answers were recorded and analyzed.

an atrocity - something terrible

to plagiarize - to steal text or ideas

facilitating personal expression - making it easier for teens to express themselves

collaboration - working together.

citation - properly indicating where you got your research from.

copyright infringement - stealing material from books or magazines etc.

to digest - this usually means 'to eat' but here it means to read and understand

mediocre - not good and not bad; plain,

symbolism - when a term or object represents something that is not easily spoken about.  For instance if we say that the moon is a symbol in a poem, it might symbolize some deeper concept.

silly-putty -  a type of clay that can be used by children to make things; he is saying that the brains of young Americans are being turned into clay.

that doesn't gel with - that doesn't follow or make sense compared to what they were complaining about.

but w/e - with eraser?

a temptation - a feeling that you want to do something that you know you shouldn't.
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Writing/discussion:

Do you feel that the internet has been a blessing or a curse in regard to education?

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