I’m currently reading “The University of Google: education in the [post] education age” by Tara Brabazon. It’s absolutely fascinating, highly recommended for anyone interested in higher education and information skills in the digital age. I need to buy a copy myself, because as I’m reading I feel the need to highlight passages all the way, I’m nodding my head in agreement whilst I read..
I love this quote on page 45 – ‘Everything can be learnt from the web, except how to use it’. Brabazon notes Google Scholar as a welcome intervention to tertiary information seeking, as Scholar places the refereed literature amongst search results. Maybe I’m getting old, but it seems bizarre to me that higher education can function without the specialisation and expertise that comes from advanced information seeking – moving beyond Google and Google Scholar, which are great starting places, to the specialised databases and indexes. I think I’m finding Tara Brabazon’s book refreshing because after beating the infomation literacy /information skils drum for so long, especially *here*, it’s great to find an academic with the same beliefs.
I remember working on the reference desk at QUT, and one cohort of students arrived saying that their lecturer had set an assignment with a compulsory component of using at least three refereed journal articles. ‘What’s a refereed article?’ ‘What’s peer-review?’ It’s a convention particular to scholarly, academic literature, I guess, but it confers a value based on evaluation and quality control. We have sophisticated (maybe overly so) databases in which to search for this type of literature – I wouldn’t expect first year undergraduates to use these, but final year students who scrape by without them – are they cheating themselves out of really understanding their discipline?
So if we take Google Scholar, with its inclusion of refereed literature, as a step in the right direction, the problem of access remains. The commodification of information by international publishers placing tolls on access – a familar argument to those in libraries and repository circles. Interesting to see this coming from the perspective of information location, evalution and use.
Tara Brabazon is a key note speaker at the LILAC conference. I’ve been to the last two LILACs, they are the Kylie Mingoue’s of conferences – small but perfectly formed! Really enjoyable with a great mix of practitioners and researchers. I hope Tara Brabazon’s presentation goes online afterwards.