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Kids not so tech-savvy after all

Students hard-pressed to distinguish between authoritative and advertising sites.

A new survey dispels the myth that the next generation of kids are tech- savvy to be competent in navigating the academic world, reports Campus Technology.

The Educational Testing Service's (ETS) survey of 6,300 students who responded to the company's information and communication technology (ITC) Literacy Assessment said that many "lack the critical thinking skills to perform the kinds of information management and research tasks necessary for academic success."

Students were measured on their ability to use critical thinking to reason in a technological environment. They were asked to take a test on management tasks – such as extracting information from a database, developing a spreadsheet, or composing an e-mail summary of research findings – in a simulated online testing environment.

The findings were startling. Slightly more than half could correctly judge the objectivity of a Web site and only 65 percent could correctly judge the site's authoritativeness, said ETS. Forty percent entered multiple search terms to narrow the results. And when selecting a research statement for a class assignment, only 44 percent identified a statement that captured the demands of the assignment.

"Those in academia have long suspected that while college-age students can use technology, they don't necessarily know what to do with the content the technology provides," said Irvin Katz, a senior research scientist at ETS. "Our preliminary findings show that, in large part, those suspicions are well founded."

The survey pointed out that students have a tough time differentiating fact from fiction in their information sources.

"They draw information from questionable resources because they don't know the difference between information they find from an ad or a biased source and that which they find on an authoritative, timely, objective site," said Alexius Macklin, an associate professor of library science at Purdue University.