CA university system mulls mandatory tech testing

Educators concerned that tech-savvy kids are actually not very adept at distinguishing good from bad sources found on the Internet.
Written by ZDNET Editors, Contributor on

The popular wisdom is that kids entering college are text-messaging, wiki-savvy, MySpace-connected, videoblogging geeks who run technological circles around their parents and professors. The truth, colleges are finding out, is a little different. So different, in fact, that the California State University is considering a mandatory assessment test on technological literacy for all freshmen, The Sacramento Bee reports.

"It's been a long time since we talked about any other standardized test in the CSU," Lorie Roth, assistant vice chancellor for academic programs in the CSU system said. "It's in the discussion phase now ... serious discussion."

It's not that kids aren't terribly familiar with the Internet, but their skills at evaluating what they find there are not robust.

"They're geeky, but they don't know what to do with their geekdom," said Barbara O'Connor, a Sacramento State communications studies professor involved in a nationwide effort to hone students' computer-research skills.

On a recent nationwide test to measure their technological "literacy" -- their ability to use the Internet to complete class assignments -- only 49 percent of the test-takers correctly evaluated a set of Web sites for objectivity, authority and timeliness. Only 35 percent could correctly narrow an overly broad Internet search.

Essentially, young people have a worrisome faith in the quality of the results they get from search engines.

"They're very good at typing in and using the Internet, but they don't always understand what they get back," said Linda Goff, head of instructional services for the CSU-Sacramento library. "You see an open search box, you type in a few words and you push the button," said Goff, who is involved in the testing. "They take at face value whatever shows up at the top of the list as the best stuff."
Editorial standards