Making the rounds on many blogs and dlists is the article from the Chronicle of Higher Education entitled, “A Sociologist Says Students Aren’t So Web-Wise After All.”
Eszter Hargittai, the sociologist involved, asserts the claim made that just because students are of the younger generation it doesn’t justly follow that they will be more “Web-savvy.” According to Dr. Hargittai college freshmen are often unable to exhibit a “basic understanding of such terms as BCC (blind copy on e-mail), podcasting, and phishing.” She goes on to claim that such deficiencies could relate to students not realizing the volatility of such online tools as Wikipedia and how they are created and maintained.
For the most part, this statement seems to hinge on the assumption that being “Web-savvy” directly relates to the level of knowledge about “how” these systems work and not on “how” to make these systems complete the tasks they are designed to do. The aspect of this issue that really needs more attention is the acceptance of technology in their tasks and rate of adaptability. Sure they may not be able to speak WIki code just from looking at the published page, but would they understand the “document structure” in a faster time frame than the Baby-boomer generation?
I hope that this article, and the wave of “I told you so’s” from those questioning the skills of Gen-Y, won’t be used as ammo to negate the development of advanced technology services. We have an open road in front of us for sharing information with those who are “Web-savvy” and possibly even inspiring the next generation of web geniuses. On the flip-side, I whole-heartedly support assessing student skill levels in technology competencies. I would go so far as to start pushing for a standardized assessment tool to be rolled into our library instruction tools. It would not only help instruct the students but their faculty and ourselves at the same time.
For those who missed it the first time, here is a post in which I talked about issues such as this in longer detail.