Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Education

The Impatience of the Google Generation 366

Posted by Soulskill
from the everything-i-need-to-know-i-learned-from-google dept.
profBill writes "As a fifty-something professor who teaches introductory computer science, I am very aware that the twenty-somethings in my class are much more at ease with computers than any other generation. However, does that mean they are more adept at using those computers? Apparently not, according to the researchers at University College London. Their research indicates that while more adept at conducting searches, younger users also show 'impatience in search and navigation, and zero tolerance for any delay in satisfying their information needs'. Moreover, these traits 'are now becoming the norm for all age-groups, from younger pupils and undergraduates through to professors'. The panel makes two conclusions: That libraries (and I wonder what a library will become in the future, anyway) will have to adapt, and that the information processing skills of todays young people are lacking. Why are those skills lacking and, if they are, what can be done about it?"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

The Impatience of the Google Generation

Comments Filter:
  • by MindPrison (864299) on Friday January 18, 2008 @06:39AM (#22091082) Journal
    Im an ex. teacher, now working in the industry instead, and I think I have an idea why they are like that - you know - incredibly impatient, demanding and everything has to be here and now! Its because they are used to it, with search engines like Google and others - not to mention modern computers with awesome search facilities gives them the power of instant knowledge, so who wants to wait given alternatives like that? We of the "older" generation are used to doing things by experience and heavy research into just about everything, and we have TRIED what they are doing now - therefor we know the difference between instant knowledge and well thought out and researched knowledge. There is a HUGE difference. But how do we change this? The truth is - we need to "tap into" that generation and show real life advantages, the young generation are far from stupid, they have aquire information differently because we have given them the oportunity to do so, and natural selection comes home.
    • by JohnFluxx (413620) on Friday January 18, 2008 @06:55AM (#22091178)
      Why is it somehow better to have to go down to a local library and search through books for an answer, than a quick google search?
      I'm doing my PhD, and pretty much everything that I need for my research is a google search away. In particular google scholar rocks.

      I'd rather spend my time actually reading the info than trying to find it.
      • by rucs_hack (784150)
        In particular google scholar rocks.

        Amen to that, almost all of the bibliography in my thesis was found via Google scholar.
      • by English French Man (1220122) on Friday January 18, 2008 @07:18AM (#22091312)
        Looking for information is a skill in itself, and provides all kind of background information on the subject you are looking for; you may not be directly interested in all the information, but knowledge of it cannot hurt. With a simple Google search, you find much less complete information, because you are targeting way more your searches.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Tango42 (662363)
          In other words, Google searches are more efficient that looking it up in a book. Better targeting is a good thing. If you want general information about a topic, you look it up on Wikipedia, if you want specific information about a very precise topic, you Google it (using Google Scholar if appropriate). Books have their purposes, but finding an answer to a question isn't one of them - the net is much better for that.
          • Don't forget that many google searches lead to a book.

            What needs to be taught is good research skills. Google is a good first step in well-researching something, and dependent upon someone's needs it may be the only step required.

            In some ways google makes things harder to teach good research skills because google really is that good. Thus a teacher wanting to make a student do hard research must give that student a more difficult assignment to make them go off of google.
            • by ronadams (987516) on Friday January 18, 2008 @10:03AM (#22092320) Homepage

              Thus a teacher wanting to make a student do hard research must give that student a more difficult assignment to make them go off of google.

              Exactly. Throw some curveballs that require deeper research than just a precursory Google search, and maybe we'll get somewhere. This is a wonderful time to be training a young researcher -- because of the wealth of information out there, and how quickly so much of it can be acquired, the bar can be raised higher than ever before. Weren't computers supposed to be making us smarter, anyway? For me, at least, most of my college papers could be written with Google Scholar, except for one particular professor I had, who made his assignments so damn hard I actually had to Google and (GASP!) read some books. For that, I'm eternally grateful.

              Also, I'm mad as hell someone already took my "tldr" line.

            • by kellyb9 (954229) on Friday January 18, 2008 @10:48AM (#22092920)

              Don't forget that many google searches lead to a book.
              Funny... most of google searches lead to porn.
        • by oncehour (744756)
          You have a good point in that searching through books can help you to learn all sorts of new and slightly related things on the way to your endpoint. However, society is progressing to the point where precise targetting is far preferred to generalization. We've got entire fields that require 4+ years of intense focus on just one or two small spheres of knowledge.

          If you're looking to learn all encompassingly about a subject then a book is a great way to do so. However if instead you're looking to research ju
          • by computational super (740265) on Friday January 18, 2008 @11:21AM (#22093426)
            society is progressing to the point where precise targetting is far preferred to generalization.

            Here's the thing about that - I'm always reading something (it's getting harder these days to cram in "reading time" now that I have a wife and a couple of kids, but I manage to find some time to do it anyway). I read about topics I'm interested in, such as programming (right now, I'm working my way through the behemoth "Programming Python"); not necessarily to discover a specific fact or solution, but to gain general knowledge.

            The result? Because I know what's going on behind the scenes, and the theory behind it all, I can usually figure out why something's gone wrong immediately, without having to flail around doing random google searches as my, um, "contemporaries" tend to do (at least as they do right before they beg me to figure it out for them).

            This wouldn't bother me quite so much if it wasn't for the fact that the people who expect me to do their jobs for them regard reading books as a "waste of time". The problem with the "precise targeting", "gotta have it now, no time to research because we have to hurry up and wait" attitude is that somebody has to write the answers to those "precise target" searches. And how do you suppose they figured out how to do that?

        • by Mr. Underbridge (666784) on Friday January 18, 2008 @09:31AM (#22092022)

          Looking for information is a skill in itself, and provides all kind of background information on the subject you are looking for; you may not be directly interested in all the information, but knowledge of it cannot hurt. With a simple Google search, you find much less complete information, because you are targeting way more your searches.

          By that standard, then we should also throw out the card catalog, because it might be too efficient at helping me find what I'm looking for. Let's go back to the old system I call "throw all the books on the floor and pick one at random". I bet you find all kinds of interesting information you don't need.

          Others have said it, but I'll repeat it: there's a difference between the skill of searching and the search medium. Google (or another more field-apropriate search engine), used well, is a starting point - it will be much better than non-online searches. Once you find something promising, following references in the article you're reading will probably be more fruitful. Just like in the old times.

          If the cranky old farts who are complaining had bothered to ask younger but somewhat accomplished researchers how they work, I bet that would be the usual system. It's what I do. I'm 30 and am in the age group that spanned the digitization of search - I'm familiar with traditional search methods. For the most part, they suck. I also have pretty good Google-fu skills, and I know that playing keyword soup all day only gets you so far. I use search engines to find a useful paper, and then use its references to find others. This method did just fine for my Ph.D. research, and now it's working for me as a professional.

      • by an.echte.trilingue (1063180) on Friday January 18, 2008 @07:34AM (#22091368) Homepage
        Well, I'm just doing my master, but for my work (International Relations), they both have their value. Let's say that you are writing about the Nixon's establishment of diplomatic relations with China. You can use google and wikipedia to get an overview of opinions on the subject in the initial stages of your research, and then for fact checking later (when did the Ping-Pong team return to the States again?). Indeed, the skill to do this kind of searching is wide both spread and indispensable in modern academia.

        However, if you want to go beyond the superficial, the libraries (or more precisely, the slow, deliberate reading of credible sources that we generally associate with libraries) are essential. If you want to understand why things happened instead of establishing a simple chronology, you have to read Kissinger's books and memoirs, you have to read public records, you have to read contemporary journalism. It is also very helpful to read other scholars' interpretations, both in their books and journals.

        Obviously, there is no reason that we can't digitize this information and stick on the internet, but simple availability and physical location of the documents is not where the problem here.

        The problem this professor is pointing out is that people lack the ability to do this second part and go beyond the superficial because the nature of those works means that interpreting them is long and tedious and requires an attention span longer than 3 seconds. Even if digitized, you can't crtl+f for key words through a 200 page argument and understand it.

        So, the GP is right, IMHO, we need both theses skill sets.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 18, 2008 @08:12AM (#22091560)

          I'm just doing my master
          I stopped reading here. Is she hot?
        • by TargetBoy (322020) on Friday January 18, 2008 @08:34AM (#22091660)
          The problem is that they have never seen an instance where they have needed to do what you describe. Just like most of folks have never needed to know how to skin and clean game any more.

          Aside from my liberal arts classes in college, I never have used those skills in the 15 years I've been in the workplace.

          The ability to find stuff very quickly on search engines is something that I need on a day-to-day basis and has had the president of my company come into my office with requests for me to find something for him.

          Virtually any new business problem can be researched, overviewed, found in a highly rated book that describes the topic, one-click on Amazon with over night shipping, and read through the chapter that details how to do what you need to do.

          The ability to determine the accuracy of that information, digest that research, mold it to the problem at hand, and write it effectively into proposals, designs, and code is what is useful in my job.

          Unfortunately, colleges are just spitting out kids who have never really learned how to work together on a project, reuse code, or share information out of the fear that they will be called a plagiarist by some automated tool. At best their experience is limited to a "software engineering" class or internship.

          The skill of being able to find things quickly is paramount in getting them up to speed in that area, because once you let them know they don't have to code EVERYTHING from scratch, they are more than happy to search code libraries for what they need.

          I look forward to the day when we have coded better search engines that can search on some of the meta-properties of text rather than just the words or patterns.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by QuestorTapes (663783)
        > Why is it somehow better to have to go down to a local library
        > and search through books for an answer, than a quick google search?

        > I'm doing my PhD, and pretty much everything that I need for my
        > research is a google search away. In particular google scholar rocks.

        "Doing your PhD" is still school, which is an artificially protected environment for the student in some ways. In school, the problems you are asked to solve in your classes are almost always problems someone else has solved, and y
        • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Friday January 18, 2008 @09:03AM (#22091830) Homepage Journal

          But they lack the patience and the mental disciplines needed to sit down and really work out a problem.
          So, this research has shown that young people are impatient and undisciplined.

          Who knew?

          Let me get my permanent marker. I have to right that one down for posterity.

          I bet, if enough research was done, we'd find out they're horny, too.
        • by PastaLover (704500) on Friday January 18, 2008 @09:07AM (#22091850) Journal

          "Doing your PhD" is still school, which is an artificially protected environment for the student in some ways. In school, the problems you are asked to solve in your classes are almost always problems someone else has solved, and you can -research- the solution.
          Doing your PhD is a doctoral degree AFAIK and thus not "school". You are not trying to solve problems someone else has solved, it's supposed to involve original research. Actually, solving problems someone else has solved is usually what you do at work, which is why the new generation won't be causing a global recession through their lack of invention skills any time soon.

          Many of us in the working world deal with people who -can't- do anything other than "look it up on Google". Junior programmers, especially, who can't solve a problem unless they can swipe a code snippet from the web. Some of these eventually learn to poke randomly at the code till they find something that "sorta works".
          Either you live in the wrong area of the world (i.e. India) or your company is hiring the wrong programmers. All programmers I know have a good grasp of the analytical concepts involved in writing code. Remember that these young guys is what the industry is turning on at the moment. Trying to work of snippets looked up on the internet is more common for the trade school type programmer, which may be a problem with this type of education. This also means you need to manage your junior programmers better. If they weren't taught the necessary skills you'll have to spoonfeed them. Yeah it sucks, but your company hired them in the first place didn't they?

          I've spoken to nurses and doctors who say the same things about some younger medical professionals; many of them lack the mential disciplines to diagnose problems. They're reduced to trying to look things up on Google and Wikipedia, and eventually give drugs randomly to trusting human patients.
          That's ridiculous. If they did that they shouldn't be a doctor at all. Considering the threat of lawsuits in this particular profession I wouldn't think any doctor that did that would last long. My experience with younger doctors is that they might not be as good at recognizing a certain problem (since they don't have the experience yet) but that they are far better up to speed (and stay up to speed) with the general state of the medical profession.

          Fine; but what do you do when the information -needs- to be found; not by searching musty stacks of books, but by dissection of the problem and analysis of the elements that compose it?
          So what? Then we'll dissect the problem and carry on. This post reeks of "you damn kids get off my lawn".
        • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Friday January 18, 2008 @09:43AM (#22092112) Journal

          "Doing your PhD" is still school, which is an artificially protected environment for the student in some ways. In school, the problems you are asked to solve in your classes are almost always problems someone else has solved, and you can -research- the solution.
          No. In order to be awarded a PhD, you must make 'an original contribution to the field.' If you can find a solution in someone else's work then you have not made an original contribution and thus will not be awarded a PhD.

          In US universities, a PhD is typically a hybrid degree, where the first two years involve taking classes, but after this and in non-US institutions (which often don't include the taught part) the candidate is expected to write a thesis documenting their own research. The first chapter of two of this might be a literature review documenting other people's contributions to the area but all of the rest is expected to be their own solutions to whatever problem they are tackling.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I guess these social scientist types derive their funding from trying to map distinctions upon each generation.
      The next generation is still people, at least until the biochemists succeed in making substantial tweaks to the DNA.
      OK, they're impatient. OK, they have some motor skill advantage from years of video games. Whoopee. Reality will temper the new generation far more than the generation tempers reality.
    • by Chapter80 (926879) on Friday January 18, 2008 @07:59AM (#22091488)
      I'm glad those pesky kids are impatient. They'll get off my lawn a little quicker.
    • Amen.

      Clearly, once information becomes trivial to find, at least two things will arise:

      • More and more stress on how that information is handled.
      • An incredible burden on missing information

      To the first: as we read (and know), Google can't really help that; education is irreplaceable. But to the second: it will be assumed that everyone can know everything. But if this is assumed, nothing my work shows ignorance of can be excused. I cannot imagine a PhD defense in the future!

    • The issue is that these kids know what computers are capable of and they've seen and used web apps that exhibit good design. i'm nearly 50 myself and i have the same impatience w/ craptastic programming myself. If i'm using an app and ask it to do a simple 2 dimensional search or other simple task i wanna see an immediate response. no excuse for long delays if i'm not rendering the next 3-D blockbuster. I'm doubly frustrated and angered when i'm using an app to perform a common task and have to click 5, 6,
  • As a 21 year old... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I feel like I'm more capable of absorbing large amounts of information from diverse sources than the last generation. I grew up with Google, though. Wikipedia has been around since I was about 15. Then there's IRC, Usenet, all of the forums filled with would-be experts and complete logs of conversations about more or less anything you can imagine...

    The dewey decimal system is, by comparison, total bullshit. The whole notion of a physical library needs a bit of an overhaul. Integration with some sort of full

    • by sm62704 (957197) on Friday January 18, 2008 @10:41AM (#22092806) Journal
      I feel like I'm more capable of absorbing large amounts of information from diverse sources than the last generation.

      That feeling comes from your inexperience. Your generation is no different than mine was when I was your age, and mine is no different from Ben Franklin's generation. The world has changed much, but people have changed little. Why did my grandfather's generation (he was born in 1896) call young folks "whippersnappers?" Because the young generation was always impatient. Back in the horse and buggy days, the way to get speed out of your transportation was to snap a whip, making the horse run faster.

      Every generation of 21 year olds think its generation is different from the previous one. Every generation of 21 year olds is wrong.

      -mcgrew

      (PS- your generation is lousy in bed) [slashdot.org]
  • It doesn't make sense to compare libraries to computer searches because the two haven't been around for the same amount of time. Computer searches as a skill has only had maybe a decade or two to develop while the concept of a library has had generations to develop. Kids these days simply give up thinking the result isn't there if the search query they entered wasn't giving the result they expected. This is a very obvious scenario when you realize most people (including the 90's generation) doesn't really
    • Re:Apples & Oranges (Score:5, Interesting)

      by novakyu (636495) <novakyu@member.fsf.org> on Friday January 18, 2008 @07:42AM (#22091396) Homepage

      Kids these days simply give up thinking the result isn't there if the search query they entered wasn't giving the result they expected.
      Er, where do you get that idea? I'm not sure if I qualify as a "kid" (I'm old enough to drink legally), but when the search query does not return the desired result, the standard assumption is that the wrong keywords were specified---unless it was some kind of proper name, in which case it was either misspelled, or the result really doesn't exist, at least not in the index of the search engine being used.

      But seriously, I see more older people typing in something for search result and then giving up when they don't get what they want: 1) They haven't internalized the power of Internet search engines as we have, 2) Most of them seem to have lousy keyword-picking skills.

      Of course, I'm probably biased, since I haven't been around too many old people (especially not those who blazed the trail for computer science), but I still find your comment unsupported by evidence.
  • by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Friday January 18, 2008 @06:43AM (#22091108) Homepage Journal
    i'd rtfa but that page is taking forever to load.
  • by stranger_to_himself (1132241) on Friday January 18, 2008 @06:45AM (#22091120) Journal

    An good exercise is a systematic literature review [wikipedia.org]. You have to make sure that you don't just find some information about the topic you are interested in, but you find all of the available information, then you must critically assess each piece of literature and synthesise them properly. Each stage of the process must be justified and repeatable (so no Googling)

    I'm in the middle of one of these and its really shown up my impatience to get answers. In my opinion something like this should be a part of the school curriculum, or at least a part of undergradute courses.

    • by pubjames (468013)
      You have to make sure that you don't just find some information about the topic you are interested in, but you find all of the available information

      Are you serious? That's pretty much impossible these days.

      I think one major difference between today and pre-web is that previously, it was easy to believe that you had found "all of the available information", even if in reality you hadn't. These days, we are much more aware of how much information is out there, and how rapidly it is growning. This will become
    • by Eivind (15695) <eivindorama@gmail.com> on Friday January 18, 2008 @07:50AM (#22091440) Homepage
      You're being ignorant or silly. It's not possible to find "all of the available" information on any topic, and much less to be -certain- that you've found it all. Not even for tiny, specialised subjects. For larger more complex subjects, you can easily find enough information that you'd spend 10 lifetimes just reading trough it once, nevermind critically assess and synthesise anything whatsoever. Then what ?

      There are areas where you can get a reasonable overview -- namely those areas where we know next to nothing or that interest nobody (or both!), but that is by nessecity niche.

      You can't collect, read, assess and synthesise "all available information" on Computer-Science, so you migth go more narrow and do Cryptography, but that's equally impossible. So you might go more narrow and do Diffie-Hellman. Even then you could only be certain you've found the most well-known articles and research on it, there's always going to be a risk that some student in India (say) has published a paper that includes information not found anywhere else. There's no way to tell.
      • by stranger_to_himself (1132241) on Friday January 18, 2008 @08:24AM (#22091610) Journal

        You're being ignorant or silly. It's not possible to find "all of the available" information on any topic, and much less to be -certain- that you've found it all. Not even for tiny, specialised subjects. For larger more complex subjects, you can easily find enough information that you'd spend 10 lifetimes just reading trough it once, nevermind critically assess and synthesise anything whatsoever. Then what ?

        You're wrong about that. The academic indexes are good enough that you can be certain enough not to have missed anything important. If somebody has done some significant (yes even Indian students), then they will have sent it to a peer reviewed journal, and that journal will be indexed. I'm not saying it's easy, and it can take months to do right. I know the model for publication in Computer Science is different to all other academic subjects so maybe it wouldn't work there, I don't really know.

        There are areas where you can get a reasonable overview -- namely those areas where we know next to nothing or that interest nobody (or both!), but that is by nessecity niche.

        Well obviously. You only need to do this where there is a significant conflict of evidence and opinion (so you can identify where the conflicts arise), or where there isn't much evidence and it's never been collated. Otherwise Googling will work just fine.

        Of course you can't review 'computer science' or 'medicine'. You have to be very specific about the question you are trying to answer. For example, you might look for information on the pattern of occurrence of a particular disease, or the effect of a particular social intervention on crime rates, or the most efficient implemenation of some algorithm. You'd maybe have to read the titles of 10000 articles, the abstracts of 1000, and the text of a hundred just to get to the four or five that will provide the important information.

        • by epine (68316) on Friday January 18, 2008 @10:46AM (#22092886)

          You're wrong about that. The academic indexes are good enough that you can be certain enough not to have missed anything important. If somebody has done some significant (yes even Indian students), then they will have sent it to a peer reviewed journal, and that journal will be indexed.
          Why is it that every time the term "peer review" comes up, it comes up in a sentence justifying silliness? First of all, peer review is like the patent system: at any given time, all the breaking discoveries are tied up in a secretive review process. By the time this information is actually published, it's awfully late to the party in any fast moving discipline.

          Then there is the cross-discipline problem. In a field such as cognitive psych, useful material can be squirreled away in pretty much any journal from the sciences or the humanities. How good is that index, really?

          The more original your thesis, the less likely your useful sources are the top scoop in the peer review catalog system. The "peer review" bucket is a form of insularity, but somehow most scholars within the system manage to convince themselves that nothing from the barbarian sphere is much worthy of consideration.

          This distinction would be much clearer if the world had adopted the practice that all peer review articles are published in Latin. And then when some stooped-backed doctoral acolyte pops his badly shaven head out of an ivory tower and proclaims (in Latin) that every road leads to Rome, it would be plainly evident what kind of world that person is living in.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Eivind (15695)
          Sorry. Your confidence in the academic indexes is too high.

          True; they will contain everything that is -ALREADY- recognized as being important. But that doesn't help you much; that just tells you the stuff that the scientific community already agrees is important.

          Much more interesting is the stuff that -IS- important, but which isn't recognized as such yet. That can be so for a multitude of reasons ranging from plain misunderstanding and to the work not yet being read by anyone with enough expertise to recog
      • by ixache (123955) on Friday January 18, 2008 @09:22AM (#22091956)

        You can't collect, read, assess and synthesise "all available information" on Computer-Science, so you migth go more narrow and do Cryptography, but that's equally impossible. So you might go more narrow and do Diffie-Hellman. Even then you could only be certain you've found the most well-known articles and research on it, there's always going to be a risk that some student in India (say) has published a paper that includes information not found anywhere else. There's no way to tell.

        I don't want to argue with you, but this excerpt made me think about the great Donald E. Knuth [stanford.edu], whose story is well known: in the 60's, he devised the lofty project of writing a set of books about algorithms, that would be the definitive and comprehensive source of knwoledge about this topic. It is the famous and acclaimed The Art of Computer Programming.

        All is fine, except that the level of detail and perfection that Dr. Knuth set himself to pursue led him to search for every piece of information about algorithms that could included in his books, and also to invent an idealized assembler (twice, MIX then MMIX) to get a feel "how it really works concretely", to program his own typesetting system, the great TeX (twice, first in Pascal then in C) --and to invent by the side his own programming methodology, literate programming (which has never caught on)-- and to revise accordingly his first three volumes once or twice each.

        Now, forty years later, the wealth of knowledge about algorithms has grown exponentially, to the point that no one man could know all about it, and he is nowhere near the completion of his initial goal. Moreover, the workload he has currently assigned himself to complete unfortunately seems to require a longer time than his expected remaining lifetime (he was born in january 1938). And there are not many things more disheartening than seeing someone dying too early to achieve his lifetime Graal...

        Sorry for being glum and offtopic,

    • by Peeteriz (821290)
      Of course that assumes that all available relevant high-quality information is the formally published literature you are reviewing. This is true for the case mentioned in your wiki link - medical research, clinical studies, etc; and not true for many other subjects that people are interested in.
      But there is an even more important point here - Google generation has obviously decided that it's much more efficient to look at the result of such systematic literature review done by someone else (or by go
  • Academic Sources (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cheesethegreat (132893) on Friday January 18, 2008 @06:53AM (#22091172)
    One of the major problems here is that students are used to being able to Google "mitigating factors in murder" and get a nice website with clean design which provides them with the history and current state of the topic, all in a single easy-to-use package.

    In contrast, academic articles are usually much narrower in scope than your average webpage and require much more reading and time before an understanding of the subject can be cultivated. Of course, the benefit of using academic articles is that after having read a dozen of them, a student will have a much better and more balanced understanding of a subject than they would have if they'd just gone to Crazy Bob's Information Hut.

    When I peer-review papers (I'm currently in law school), it's very obvious which students started their research with academic sources, and which started on Google. The problem can be quickly solved by professors taking the approach seen at my institution: students failing to have in-depth research on the topic get poor marks.
    • by shadanan (806810) on Friday January 18, 2008 @07:46AM (#22091418) Homepage
      You seem to prove a rather different point from the one set out at the onset of this discussion. Google is simply a search engine and it allows the user to find information. "Crazy Bob's Information Hut" is a specific web site which may or may not be the result of a Google search. But good and reliable sources of information might also be part of a Google search. Consider Google scholar. While I was writing my thesis, I regularly used Google scholar to find papers relating to my topic. Once I found the papers that seemed relevant, I went out and got those papers - at my university library if no electronic copy could be found. As you can see, it is possible to start with Google search and then narrow your search as you progress.

      More than likely, all the students that you peer reviewed started their research with Google. The more intelligent among them however, went the extra mile and found good sources when they wrote their papers. This is not new. Intelligent people will always write good papers by doing the research that is necessary. In our generation however, we have access to more sophisticated tools than previous generations for finding information. We have Google search and the Internet as well as online libraries. The previous generation had references, the Dewey Decimal System and card catalogs.

      I am glad though, that your university fails students that don't do in-depth research. I would be quite surprised otherwise.
    • by delinear (991444) on Friday January 18, 2008 @08:08AM (#22091542)
      I'm not sure what you're describing is as much to do with the availability of information in the digital age as it is to do with laziness in certain students. When I read law back in the mid-to-late 90s, the internet was a new and pretty much underused tool in legal academic circles, yet there were still lazy students who relied on the minimum recommended reading list (or even worse, on their lecture notes/information sheets) to get all their information and others who read around the subject, did more in-depth research, used the recommended books and articles as a start-point for their research rather than and end-point.

      Of my peers at the time, I was one of the few who utilised the internet as much as possible (admittedly there were far fewer legal resources online back then), but again I would use it to lead me down different avenues of research, to give me a much broader understanding of the subject at hand. I saw it as one more source to add to books, case reports, articles, etc. Now, of course, a lot of the information from those other sources is available online - this is merely a more convenient format to allow research, it doesn't prevent the more studious from doing extensive research.

      At the end of the day, if a lazy student only has the option of reading books and articles, he will read the bare minimum he needs. If we give him the option of the internet, he will visit the bare minimum of sites he needs to get the same information. The issue here is with motivating students to _want_ to do the additional research, not with criticising the tools of said research.
  • by Two9A (866100) on Friday January 18, 2008 @06:56AM (#22091182) Homepage
    I don't feel myself to be a part of whatever generation the journalists want to refer to this week. I use Google, but I also read books. I use Facebook, but I also meet up with friends.

    Can't we just use the technology available to us, without being branded with the [Insert Keyword] Generation tag?
    • by Aaron Isotton (958761) on Friday January 18, 2008 @07:51AM (#22091442)
      Ah, you must be part of the "I'm not part of a generation" generation. A post-hippie, basically.
      • by nicklott (533496)
        Well, he reads books and can spell, plus he doesn't want to be a part of something: these are the hallmarks of a Gen Xer....
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by sm62704 (957197)
        Ah, you must be part of the "I'm not part of a generation" generation. A post-hippie, basically.

        You can make a post into a hippie? What are YOU on, hippie?

        -mcgrew

        PS: something just happened that happens daily that refutes Professor Bill's entire thesis. Now, rememeber I'm a 55 year old geezer. So what do I seee almost daily at slashdot, where all of the admins are young enough to be my kids?

        Slow Down Cowboy! Slashdot requires you to wait between each successful posting of a comment to allow everyone a fair
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Aladrin (926209)
      Reminds me a of a site called 'I hate Gen X'. Basically lists everything he personally hates about Generation X, most of which don't actually apply to anyone I know. Some even apply more to Gen Y (or whatever they're calling it this week) than Gen X.

      Generations are just another way to express prejudice.

      Personally, I get immense satisfaction out of being prejudiced against prejudiced people.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dalutong (260603)
      I don't feel I'm part of any generation, but for a different reason. I think I got the best of both worlds, I got into computers young enough to be able to consider them a tool, but a lot of my information accessing and processing habits were developed pre-Internet (in part because I grew up in a country without much Internet access.) My understanding of computers was very much like the "old" academic pursuit: step by step learning. I installed my first color graphics card to play an Indiana Jones game in 1
    • by EveryNickIsTaken (1054794) on Friday January 18, 2008 @08:53AM (#22091766)
      Nah, just wait until we're in our 60's and 70's, and we can rename ourselves the "Greatest Generation." Since we'll be old and annoying, people will cut us slack and let us do that.
  • by clickclickdrone (964164) on Friday January 18, 2008 @06:59AM (#22091194)
    One of the biggest problems of being able to type in a question and have an answer (or sorts) fired back seconds later is that you become very used to dealing facts but are in danger of lacking understanding.
    Back when we relied more on books, you'd often go through several books and many pages looking for something and along the way see all manner of peripheral information on the subject which over time builds in to a much broader grasp of the subject and a better basis for joining the dots and developing understanding.
    I suspect that in the unlikely event that the web disappeared overnight, we'd have a whole generation or two of apparantly 'smart' people floundering badly.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by IkeTo (27776)
      I feel just the opposite. I find that knowing facts, or at least being able to acquire a large amount of fact quickly, is critical when you want understanding. The web allows the former to be achieved with much greater ease, so this generation is much better off than the previous generation in understanding the world. (It is not to say that web searching did not help in the understanding: I usually find that web search gives me something much easier to digest than whatever I can find in textbooks.)

      It is
      • >The web is being changed in every instant, the search result of Google change every day
        Which is in itself a problem. What if everyone starts relying on say Wikipedia and then that site goes? There are many areas of study that has one or two really good web resources and a whole bunch of also-rans. Most books exist in hundreds if not thousands of copies around the world. If a major website goes, it's knowledge is potentially lost forever along (archive.com notwithstanding).
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by shadanan (806810)
      I agree that immediate access to information is dangerous in the hands of idiots - or at the very least, very annoying. However, the fact that the current generation has immediate access to information doesn't change the fact that memorizing and understanding are two different things altogether.

      You might be able to lookup the value of e on the Internet. You might be able to immediately lookup what the derivative is for a given function. But, regardless of what generation you belong to, knowing the value
    • There still are people who go the long way and read hard science stuff to understand it, and some of these people make posts writing about how they solved thier problem. Sure if we don't have google no one is ever going to read this stuff, but smart people will still exist.

      What you are talking about is people who can solve things fast with just some searches on the internet, you can solve highly specialized problem with out almost no prior knowledge and no needs for smarts.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        I read something recently (online, natch) that put forward the thought that as a species we were in danger of losing the ability to reason/understand because to a large extent, that is a learned skill and if you have a generation or two who are only used to dealing with instant facts, you might not be able to pick up that again easily once that skill is lost.
        It discussed if that was actually a problem in itself i.e. as long as you have an answer, does it matter that you don't know how to get it? I'd say ye
  • Well.. (Score:2, Funny)

    by deepershade (994429)

    and I wonder what a library will become in the future, anyway
    If Mars University has taught us anything, then the Library of the future will contain two discs, Fiction and Non-fiction.
  • Misconception (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Spad (470073) <slashdot@@@spad...co...uk> on Friday January 18, 2008 @07:01AM (#22091206) Homepage
    Kids may be much more at ease with computers than their parents, simply because they grew up with them, but they certainly aren't any more competent when it comes to using them. Most of my younger brother's friends (19-21 age range) struggle to do anything more than use email, Word, IM and MySpace/Facebook with a computer.

    They like using computers, they're certainly not afraid of computers (like some people are), but they don't have any desire to learn how to use a computer beyond simple tasks (and they certainly don't have the patience to most of the time).
  • by Cordath (581672) on Friday January 18, 2008 @07:05AM (#22091218)
    Blogs, google-bombing advertisers, dead sites taken over by domain squatters, broken links, inaccurate wiki's... It's becoming increasingly more difficult to find good information online. Perhaps this is why the tolerance for delay and reliance on search engines is increasing across the board. (not just in them whipper-snappers!) With a lower signal to noise ratio you have to churn through more material to get what you want. That means investing less time in avenues that don't pay off fast and using search engines to avoid tedious mucking about with links that are broken as often as not. The evolution of search engines is about the only thing that is helping to combat the decreasing SNR of the web. Try searching for something specific and imagine what it would be like if you had to go back to using Lycos circa 1998!

    That being said, ease of searching is just one of the many reasons why libraries should be digitizing their collections. How many times have you found a book that looked absolutely perfect for what you're doing, only to find that it's loaned out, damaged or defaced, returned but not reshelved, lost, etc.. Also, it's just plain more convenient to be able to pull up some text from the comfort of your couch rather than trekking into the library. That convenience adds up if it's something you access regularly. e.g. Who goes to the library to read paper journals these days?
  • libraries (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rucs_hack (784150) on Friday January 18, 2008 @07:06AM (#22091224)
    and I wonder what a library will become in the future, anyway

    Probably they will change into (back into) the original model provided by the great library of Alexandria. That institution held books (ok, scrolls), but was primarily a place of teaching, effectively its role was what we now see as the role of a university.

    Libraries only became dull(yes, dull) with the advent of the new breed of privately funded library in the eighteenth century (I omit centuries of Islamic libraries, I know little of them, other then they were active and very full). Certainly this was the case in England, and I'm pretty sure the US has its share of privately initiated libraries. Those libraries were focused heavily on the collection of knowledge, and did indeed help many people learn new things, but the visitor was expected to remain solemnly quiet, to absorb the information and depart, not disturbing others engaged in the ritual of learning.

    Pretty boring stuff for a great proportion of the population (not me, I like libraries, but I'm not talking about myself). Information does not do well sat in books, it needs to be experienced, talked about, it should 'live'. That was Micheal Faraday's idea, and he gave weekly science lectures as well as doing science, inspiring many to seek further knowledge. The Internet brings us some measure of liveness for our information as well, which stimulates interest, but for the most part its short term. You find what you want, or don't, and move on fast.

    A library should include the Internet, and books, but also staff who teach, providing some means of focusing people on the knowledge that they have become however fleetingly interested in. Without that you're unlikely to have a library that does anything but collect dust and books.

    • by urikkiru (801560)
      Someone mentioned the obvious choice of libraries digitizing their collections. I think this is inevitable. I mean, really, think about what this article is about.. the speed at which people expect information to be collected. Isn't the ability to search text a beautiful gift of technology? It seems to me that what we're actually talking about is the medium in which the information comes from, as well as the reliability of the source. If libraries *did* digitize their collected works, wouldn't we treat that
    • Finnish libraries are not dull. You can find a little bit of everything. Books, videos, music, etc. in mostly every category. Including not-so-agreeable stuff like sexology, weird-artsy works and so on. There are also computers for browsing the net and doing other work. Usage stats a pretty decent: "[Finland] has high usage of public libraries: 20,3 loans and 11.98 library visits per inhabitant in 2005" (http://kirjastoseura.kaapeli.fi/etusivu/apua/english [kaapeli.fi]). I can get any work sent to my local lib
      • by Chrisq (894406)
        In the UK libraries are not as bad as I thought. I hadn't been in one for 20 years until my daughter needed a book for a project. To my surprise there was web-browsing, kids activities, multimedia, t.v rooms and no dragon-like lady going shhhhhhhhhh!
  • Let us rejoice in the three virtues of a programmer: laziness, impatience, and hubris :) Seriously, I don't want to wait for computers and neither should you. And I don't want to wade through piles of junk to find good information. These are basic things. The only difference now is if people now have a little less tolerance for crap.

    Studies like this always start out by assuming things about young people, only to find out they know nothing. How is that a surprise ? Gee, teenagers don't pay attentio
  • Sounds sensible... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Max Romantschuk (132276) <max@romantschuk.fi> on Friday January 18, 2008 @07:10AM (#22091248) Homepage
    Being a few years shy of thirty, I can certainly relate to this. When I was a kid the only source of information was the library, and whatever books we had at home. I remember reading about subjects that interested me and having to do a lot of research and work until I finally got results.

    These days I find myself being very annoyed if I can't find information that I need. Growing up as the web evolved sort of helps me see how I've changed myself. My work (R&D) depends on finding information quickly. At home I have very little free time (small kids), and I'm very annoyed whenever I fail to find the information I need. Don't even get me started on what happens when I have no internet connection at home...

    Oddly, being netless is not much of a problem for me when I go to the summer cottage for example, I still seem to have the ability to detach properly. I suspect people 5-10 years younger than me may not do so well under similar circumstances.
  • Research Methods (Score:2, Insightful)

    by stevie.f (1106777)
    There is an entirely different method to conducting research that many people are taught in schools these days, It's all about trying to use time as efficiently as possible although there is a definite trade off when it comes to quality and reliability of information.

    Find your chosen subject in wikipedia, open all of the sources and briefly scan them while following links to their sources. Within minutes you have a plethora of information at your fingertips. For many students this is enough to provide all t
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nguy (1207026)
      There is an entirely different method to conducting research that many people are taught in schools these days,

      That's no different from the way it used to be: any reasonably smart person trying to figure out a new domain would first go to simple, easy-to-understand survey articles.

      One of the most important resources for serious science used to be Scientific American.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by delinear (991444)

      When someone can easily write a 4000 word essay on a subject they previously had almost no knowledge of in one night and still get an A, there is a big problem.

      I'm not sure that statement is entirely correct. If the person can write a 4000 word essay on a subject they previously had almost no knowledge of and still fail to properly comprehend, then there is a big problem. On the other hand, if access to information has reached a level where a person can get a good grasp of a subject quickly and put that

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 18, 2008 @07:12AM (#22091264)
    To be honest, the elitism of knowledge is falling apart.
    Old profs that have taken a long degree, where half the time it wasn't really the understanding of the subject that made it hard - but simply gathering the information in the first place and then processing it; aren't too keen about all of it suddenly being as common knowledge as anything else.

    A lot of people love (as an example) wikipedia. A lot of profs love wikipedia. Quite a few hate the fact that it's making knowledge less restricted, and less potentially "streamlined" into one 'channel' that everyone has to go through to get it.

    It isn't really an issue.
    People aren't learning less, they're learning more. They're not anymore impatient about it than any other generation that was faced with unecessarily increased "downtime" of any sort.

    This, what we're seeing now, is essentially an evolutionary step in knowledge, learning and sharing.

    The new generation simply isn't stuck with the same crap the elder generations were, and they're gonna be damned if they'll be forced to "slow down" when there is no need to.

    Kids today, growing up, can learn pretty much anything about everything without ever having to expend a resource other than their time and their minds attention. /Of course/ this will draw a lot of trash from people who've spent their whole lives learning and studying the "old way".
    • There are 4 stages to understanding something:

      • First you don't know that you don't know
      • Then you know that you don't know
      • Then you don't know that you know
      • Finally you know that you know

      If you're at stage 2-4, then it can be extremely frustring to run into someone at stage 1, because usually such people are like a cup that's completely full. No room for anything.

      Do you really think a prof (probably at stage 2-4) is afraid that they'll be made redundent by google, or is more like they're annoyed by

  • by Glowing Fish (155236) on Friday January 18, 2008 @07:16AM (#22091294) Homepage
    The first obvious note to make is that this is an article about how the behavior of students doing academic research, which is why the reference to google, besides being trendy, might be a little off the mark. I think a good deal of google searches are for simple pieces of data (the phone number of the nearest Chinese restaurant), not for serious research purpose. Even wikipedia is generally consulted for simple facts (what is the population of Montreal?) rather than research as such.

    The main point is, I think that students naturally become impatient when dealing with data, because there is so much out there. I certainly do. But there is a big difference between how data and knowledge are gained. If I am dealing, say, with a glossy pdf full of buzzwords and generalities, I will gloss over it impatiently. If I find something that is full of actual knowledge, and concepts that aren't described in bullet points, I can be very patient while reading it.
  • So much is said about this or that technology and when it gets down to using it, its not what it was promoted to be.

    Computer power has greatly increased over the years but the user experience does not parallel that, but instead pretty much stays the same,
    More data is being transfered over the internet today and its increasing with the drive towards digital tv access. I recall when I was told that the phone line couldn't handle anything more than 96k baud rate. But today we have far faster dsl and can still
  • Two conclusions (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Per Abrahamsen (1397)
    1) Young people have always been impatient.

    2) The acceptable delay depends on expectations, which again depends on what the norm is.

    When access to information becomes faster, people also expect access to information to be faster (duh!), and are thus less tolerant of delays, even if the delays are within what used to be the norm.

    These changing norms affects younger people faster than older people, as younger people have less mental baggage to carry around.

    Oh, and bonus point:

    3) Books are technically obsolete
    • 1) Young people have always been impatient.
      Apparently this "meta study" does claim to compare studies from the 1980s and 1990s to now. However, I'm not sure that I can take seriously any academic document that contains the words "According to Wikipedia".
    • by jamesh (87723)

      These changing norms affects younger people faster than older people, as younger people have less mental baggage to carry around.

      Yes. Mental inertia. I know it well :)

      3) Books are technically obsolete for looking stuff up. They are still excellent for a more in depth study of a subject.

      This is true for some subjects, not so much for others.

      In the days before the internet, the library was the only place I knew of to get the specs for this chip or that cpu. Sometimes they had it, but whatever books they did h

  • ...and I wonder what a library will become in the future, anyway

    I see two roles for libraries in the future:

    1. There is a vast amount of content that needs to be digitized. And an even vaster amount of digital content that needs to be organized. Libraries are already working on this. I work at a university library, and this has been designated our top priority for some time. And the fact that the Library of Congress just put a bunch of photos on flickr [flickr.com] to get help tagging and describing them should
  • tl;dr

  • It's self-imposed evolution. Mankind is capable of greater feats and faster answers now than ever before, and subsequent generations take this as the baseline, not the peak. Forward ever, backward never. Our kids will invent some nifty stuff in their day that will extend our five senses farther than we can imagine.
  • by DeeQ (1194763) on Friday January 18, 2008 @07:58AM (#22091478)
    Who ever wrote the article is obviously jealous of the fact that back in his day he had to hand write his plagiarisms and couldn't copy and paste.
  • just because I am from the Google generation doesn't mean I am impat
  • "The future is now" (Score:4, Informative)

    by vic-traill (1038742) on Friday January 18, 2008 @08:13AM (#22091564)

    Dame Lynne Brindley DBE, Chief Executive of the British Library, said of the report findings: "Libraries have to accept that the future is now. At the British Library we have adopted the digital mindset ... Turning the Pages 2.0 and the mass digitisation project to digitise 25 million of pages of 19th century English literature are only two examples of the pioneering work we are doing.

    In other news, the CEO of the British Library was found drifting in a tear in the time/space continuum, disoriented and incapable of understanding that digitising shit in 2008 does not make one a pioneer.

    Seriously, who writes this stuff? From the headline (Pioneering research shows 'Google Generation' is a myth) to the sponsor's announcement of the study (adopted the digital mindset), the study is so wrapped in hyperbole that I just can't take it seriously.

    And reading it is bad enough - I'd rather poke my eye out with a sharpened stick than click on the audio link to the 'Launch Event'.

  • Young people are more impatient than older ones.

     
  • It is not a matter of the generation. Searching for something and getting no results back is frustrating. Database search could still learn a lot from Google, whether the search is in news media, online shops, libraries or when searching for a song in iTunes.
  • by yar (170650) on Friday January 18, 2008 @11:21AM (#22093432)
    :P
    If you read the actual article, the researchers came to the conclusion that the whole idea that the "google generation" is more impatient with results and expects no delay was not actually backed up with evidence (p. 17 of the pdf).
  • old vs. new (Score:3, Informative)

    by cashman73 (855518) on Friday January 18, 2008 @11:22AM (#22093438) Journal
    My education seems to have spanned this transition from the old, paper-based format to the newer, digital-based format; graduated high school in 1991, B.S. in 1995, Ph.D. in 2003. So I've been able to see how things worked before compared to now. Let's just say, the old says sucked. I can remember learning the Dewey Decimal System in grade school, and the card catalog, and it just wasn't as productive as when I got to college and started searching for everything in the library on the automated terminals. And I still can't figure out why they taught us the Dewey system, when most university libraries use the Library of Congress system, which is several orders of magnitude better. By the time PubMed [nih.gov] and Google Scholar [google.com] came out, finding things just got so much easier! Who could think about going back to use the card catalog these days?

    Digitization of actual content came later. When I started graduate school in 1998, I can still remember going to the old, crusty "bowels" of the health sciences library and looking up academic journals by hand -- it was really a royal PITA because the amount of journal articles you'd have to look up was quite astronomical, and you'd have to take several trips between your table/desk in the library and the shelf, to work on a given problem. But we found the information we needed.

    By the time I graduated however, it got much better! The ACS put their entire archives since the 1800s online [acs.org], and several other publishers got into that game as well. So now, you could search online and find the info you needed as well. The problem (that still remains, unfortunately), is that publishers are still clinging to their old, archaic copyright policies, and if your institution doesn't have access, you get a page asking you to pay. And the fees, for single articles, are astronomically effing ridiculous -- $50 or so for a single article!!!! Who in the h*ll is going to pay for that?!?! I understand that publishers do need to make a certain amount of money, within reason. Although I don't buy their justification of publishing costs -- these days, the typesetting is all done in desktop word processing, by the authors! And authors are asked more and more to do actual editorial tasks. Peer review doesn't even cost as much, since the experts don't get paid to do it. So the journals asking for $50 or so for a single article are just extorting people for far too much than they should actually be charging! Fortunately, it looks like the academic publishing market is slowly moving more in the direction of open access.

  • Wait a second... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BooRolla (824295) on Friday January 18, 2008 @11:45AM (#22093826)

    ...that the information processing skills of todays young people are lacking. Why are those skills lacking and, if they are, what can be done about it?"

    Let me get this straight. Imagine someone looking for specific documented information regarding their . They search google. They visit a site. They quickly scan the site. They don't see clues that specific information is located on that site (for right now, assume it is). The user leaves the site, goes back to google, and looks at the next promising linked site.

    So explain to me why is this the fault of the user for abandoning the site? Sounds to me like the kids have it right on. Don't make excuses for websites. Not for their navigation, taxonomy, folksonomy, whatever. Especially so when there are millions of other sites trying to serve me that same content.

    Note: Bonus points goes to people that understands that not making excuses for systems is the meta answer

Never say you know a man until you have divided an inheritance with him.

Working...