“If we use Google, we get kicked off the computer.”

January 23, 2008 § 3 Comments

One of my colleagues said that her daughter came home saying this a couple of weeks ago because their school now has Nettrekker.  Now I’m all for making Internet searches easier for kids, but there has been a push around here to use Nettrekker as the only choice for Internet research.

The argument goes like this: “Do you have a good set of encyclopedias and a crappy set of encyclopedias in your library so you can teach kids the difference between good information and bad information?  Then why would you teach them to search using Google?”

I think that argument sucks.  Even back in the day, you could pretty much believe that anything in hardback had been checked and rechecked.  Information literacy wasn’t needed (as much) because you knew that publishers had weeded out the crap for you.

Today, though, everyone needs to have a solid schooling in information literacy because of the simple fact that information is so much more readily available.  No longer do I have to trek down to the library to do my research.  I can do it from my bed in my pajamas.

Don’t get me wrong, I think Nettrekker is a great tool.  But it’s just a tool, and it has it’s flaws.  When students get to the real world, they’re not going to have a Nettrekker account so they’re going to have to discern for themselves what information is valid and what is not.

So I guess the real question here is, are we trying to educate our students, or make the job of educating easier for the teacher?

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§ 3 Responses to “If we use Google, we get kicked off the computer.”

  • I totally agree with you about today’s literacy skills being different from when I was in school. However, I think you’re missing the point of netTrekker. It is a safe and relevant search engine for the students and only resources that have been handpicked will show up in the search. Some of those results include teacher created webpages and Wikipedia. A student still needs to verify their source and even decide which website has more of the voice they are looking for with their project. It’s not the Internet on Training Wheels – and it’s more than a search. This keeps the students on task – not distracted with Google Ads and irrelevant searches. You do a search on Civil War and you’ll still end up with over 1000 hits – and if you don’t search properly you’ll end up with a student who does his whole report based on a civil war in another country and not realize the website wasn’t even about THE Civil War in America. You also have built in tools like Read Aloud and the Dictionary Hot Key (which also translates words if needed for your ESL student) so the non-readers do not have an excuse with “I can’t read.” Then you have some great features like the TimeLine, safe image search and Famous Person Search.

    Digital Literacy has changed – and netTrekker is changing with it.

  • Scott says:

    You are right, and I agree too that Nettrekker is a great tool, but I don’t think that librarians and teachers should be telling kids that they’re going to lose their computer privileges if they use a search engine other than Nettrekker.

    As for the ads and irrelevant searches, don’t you think those are valuable things to teach kids? Shouldn’t we be teaching them that even if you do punch the monkey, you’re not going to get that iPod nano like the ad promises? Shouldn’t we be teaching them that doing a search for Martin Luther King, Jr. is going to turn up hate websites, and what those websites are, and how to tell if the information in them is valid?

    I feel the same way about a blanket policy of blocking websites. Students need to learn how to be responsible when surfing the web, and teachers need to learn how to monitor.

  • I can see your point on the ads and teaching the kids the appropriateness and how junk on the Internet works. But it took me forever to go through and clean machines or close windows with all those pop ups that were triggered from one click. I could have used the pop up blocker but two of our wonderful websites that we enjoyed made use of pop ups and we were missing valuable information. I would like to see the formal Internet classes using regular search engines where you can teach those skills and not in a regular class where they are already under enough pressure to master 10+ standards for each subject a day.

    I have also found some controversial material in netTrekker – such as Hitler and Castro being a hero.

    As far as losing their rights, there may be reasons for that. 1. Their district passed it down as a mandate because they are paying for netTrekker and want to see it used. 2. They want to make sure the students don’t have an irrelevant searches and an issue like the one with the NorthEast Substitute teacher a few years ago that is finally coming to trial.

    I once did a search for “cheerleading tips moves steps high school competetion” in Yahoo and Google. (Not all at once but in a variety of search trials) I was working with a cheerleading squad and I WAS NOT their first choice and so I had a lot to learn. (I was the only fool dedicated enough to stay after school and do weekend trips.) I was disgusted and shocked at the results. I even had Google Safe Search Filter on and I still had sites that should not have come through. In school the next day I had students working on a digital storytelling project about slavery (this was my technology class where I integrated the core subjects- worked it in reverse). The images they found for slavery were so inappropriate we had to modify and adjust the project. I had to spend hours after cheerleading to find the images, put them in a folder and limit the students to those images only. Now, netTrekker probably doesn’t have what I want for cheerleading, but I can promise they have the slavery topic.
    It’s all good – and we just need to teach the teachers when each tool is appropriate and to share with the students on how to pick which tool is appropriate for their proposed project.

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