An ESL/EFL perspective on this would be interesting, I think.
3.6 zettabytes. 34 gigabytes. 100,500 words a day. 11.8 hours a day. 350% increase over three decades.
As these numbers from a recent study suggest, students' research processes and information literacy skills are being challenged by the nature and volume of information in the digital age. In the 2008 report published by University College London, Information Behaviour of the Researcher of the Future, several common computer uses and information behaviors of young people are identified, behaviors the researchers find quite concerning: lack of understanding of their information needs; preference for basic search engines like Google rather than article databases; use of natural language terms instead of subject terms or keywords; quick scanning and skimming of information sites; little or no evaluation of the quality of the information used; and cutting and pasting information into papers without providing the correct citations.
Head and Eisenberg (2009) report from their discussions with groups of college students from six different US campuses that students believe the challenges of conducting research for both school assignments and personal uses are exacerbated by digital information. Head and Eisenberg note that students “reported having particular difficulty traversing a vast and ever-changing information landscape.” Bauerlein (2008) takes this idea a step further, as he believes students’ frustration has caused them disconnect from their education. Of this, Bauerlein writes, “With so much intellectual matter circulating in the media and on the Internet, teachers, writers, journalists and other ‘knowledge workers’ don’t realize how thoroughly young adults and teens tune it out.”
Despite the amount of discussions and research occurring outside of composition studies, conversations in the field on students as digital researchers remain limited, with most attention still being paid to the product of students' research--the research paper--and specifically to the popular topic of plagiarism and how students’ research skills and research writing skills are inadequate. Compositionists have long considered and studied in depth the impact of computer use, multimedia, and the Web on students as writers, yet little work has been published on students as researchers in the digital age.
Therefore, we are seeking essays to complete an edited collection on research in the digital age that provide answers to the following questions:
• What strategies are students using to conduct research in the digital information age? In what ways can composition teachers help students build on, adapt, and revise these strategies in productive ways?
• What methodologies are available to composition teacher-scholars to better understand students’ research-based writing in the digital information age?
• How might composition teachers help students apply their non-academic research strategies to academic work?
• In what ways might composition teacher-scholars frame discussion of digital research to move beyond anxiety, fear, and blame? That is, how can we help students and teachers most effectively navigate digital research-writing spaces rather than just avoid them?
We seek essays addressing these and other questions, including projects that may take advantage of digital affordances (audio, video, etc.). We encourage potential contributors to consider both the process and product of student research writing in the digital age.
If you are interested in contributing to this collection, please send a 500 word abstract of your proposed essay to Dr. Randall McClure at randallmcclure [at] georgiasouthern.edu by July 1, 2010. Queries are welcome.