Just Google It! Students constructing knowledge through internet travel

Year: 2008

Author: Singh, Parlo, Mallan, Kerry, Giardina, Natasha

Type of paper: Refereed paper

As knowledge is the new economy, young people increasingly navigate information flows across multiple modalities to access, acquire, and construct knowledge. With the advent of Web 2.0 or the 'read/write web' (Achterman, 2006, p. 19), applications such as the Google suite and Wikipedia have become the standard service for information seekers and creators. Hailed as inherently participative, democratising and liberating, Web 2.0 enables travel along vast information scapes (Appadurai, 1996), and provides a platform for engagement and participation in national and international conversations.

This paper arises from an ARC Discovery grant. We analyse data from focus group discussions with students aged between 12 and 17 years from two regional and two urban independent secondary schools in Queensland. We examine what students have to say about their engagement with Wikipedia and Google in relation to completing school assignments. Specifically we focus on how students talk about collaborative knowledge sources, how they value knowledge from these sources, and how they perceive and mitigate the potential problems and risks of such knowledge.

We begin the paper by providing a description of conflicting viewpoints about the information potential and capabilities of Web 2.0 and the skills and knowledge that may be needed by young people traversing multiple information scapes. Our discussion highlights the ways that students encounter a variety of epistemic forms, and their attitudes to and engagement with the information sources they use.

We conclude by raising several pedagogical considerations, namely, (i) the significance for teachers and students to understand the different forms of information sources/tools that are increasingly available through web 2.0 platform, and the varying potential or value of these tools for information access and knowledge co-construction; (ii) the ways in which students traverse information scapes across both online and offline networks to access, acquire and share new knowledge; and (iii) the investments (personal, social, technological) required to access the vast knowledge networks available to students.