I've just read the Guardian's interview with Tara Brabazon, Professor of Media Studies at Brighton University. She describes how she has banned the use of google by her first year students, by refusing to grade anything based on material she has not prescribed for them. From the article: "I give my first-years a good curriculum based on 200 extracts from refereed journals and books," she says, "and I'm happy for them to use those as sources exclusively."
At first this seems a little bizarre. Shouldn't the students be looking for reference material themselves? Emma Duke-Williams, on her blog, remarks "I'm assuming that she would allow them to use Google to locate other academics websites, to use Google Scholar to find new references..."
On one hand, I'm quite persuaded by Prof. Brabazon's explanation: "I'm not asking them to be independent scholars at this stage. Rather, I'm building what I call an information scaffold. I'm guiding them through complicated ideas, and getting them to read high-quality materials. Young minds are like diamonds. They need sharpening and polishing. Too many assumptions are made about their ability to manage the transition from school to university."
So, her first year students are not yet mature enough in their scholarship to make judgements about sources of information. I tend to agree with that. But I have to ask, when and how do we expect them to learn this skill?