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Idiocy of some sort, yes

Hard to ignore the shot across the bow disguised as an IHE story this morning: Are College Students Techno Idiots?, where among other things, we learn that

A new report released Tuesday by the Educational Testing Service finds that students lack many basic skills in information literacy, which ETS defines as the ability to use technology to solve information problems.

Well, if by "report," they mean a PowerPoint deck that is stuffed with generalizations and bullet points, and atrociously designed in places, then yes, a report happened. I remember taking a little trip over to ETS to see what they were defining as Information Literacy™, and it all came rushing back to me as I revisited their Flash demo. My personal favorite is the task where a body is asking to take an email and to compose a single, persuasive PowerPoint-ish slide to present to a faculty advisor.

A persuasive slide? Umm. A healthy part of information literacy is, in fact, knowing that a single-slide PowerPoint is unlikely to be the best way to persuade one's faculty advisor. And there are similar difficulties all the way through the demo questions that I saw. There are some pretty weak attempts to instantiate "IL principles" that ignore the fact that most of what we do as "literates" is heavily context-based. I'm not sure that generic test scenarios are going to be the best way to assess this. Nor am I convinced that many of these "skills" can be reduced to right/wrong sorts of answers.

And of course, the folk who are supporting this study are those who have direct, vested interest in convincing us that there's some sort of IL crisis. Of course. Doesn't take a great deal of information literacy to suss that out.

Too much of this strikes me as Critical Thinking! With Computers! I suppose. Maybe that explains why it just leaves me feeling sour.

Snip snap snout.


I am shocked, *shocked* to hear that ETS is not an unbiased institution! You would have enjoyed some PowerPoint presentations last spring by a class of fyc students who were grappling with the question of standardized exit tests for college grads. The group representing the interests of ETS struggled to understand what it was and how it had come to have such power over their lives...

You prolly meant to link to this: http://insidehighered.com/news/2006/11/15/infolit

and it's not just a PPt deck, but one saved as a PDF. Joy!

I agree 100% with the issue of context you present here. But ETS is in the business of context-free presentation; that's what their tests and other instruments are all about.

Umm. Whoops. Who's the techno idiot again?

Fixed. Thanks, B.

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