back to article Brighton professor bans Google

The professor of media studies at the University of Brighton has had enough of students turning in "banal and mediocre work" and decided that Google and Wikipedia must go. Tara Brabazon provides her students with a reading list, of books, and expects their work to reference those works, rather than a rehash of a Wikipedia entry …

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Anonymous Coward

(untitled)

"While we applaud her call for students to learn "the interpretative skills first before we teach them the technological skills", nothing offers a range of information to be interpreted better than a Google search."

Tshh, is that a google They've got a reading list that I'm quite sure is many times better then the first ten hits on google. Those books and likely sites shall have bibliographies, so with effective use of a library I'm quite sure they'll be able to aquire far better information then just throwing terms into the googleshitengine. Maybe they'll pick up some real life research skills too.

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Anonymous Coward

Not wise

People that don't know how to use the web need a lot more time to research stuff and are not exposed to as many points of view. Her student's won't be competitive professionals.

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Nothing New..

Most Universities tell there students that Google,

Wikipedia etc aren't reliable sources, and that if they

want to pass must use reliable sources, and usually given

a reading list...

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I prefered the other approach

I liked the Prof that got her students to work on a Wiki page for an assignment more.

But this approach isnt really anything new. While at uni 2 years ago I was expected to work from the same books as every one else.

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Good idea

Run a media course and ban one of the biggest and newest form of media!

So go back to (expensive) out of date books, just to do a degree course on how to work in Tesco's..

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Not actually the right solution

While it is par for the course for a teacher to expect, and even impose, references from the material said teacher gives to the students, I do not think a blanket ban is the right answer.

The proper way to approach the issue would be to teach students a strange and alien concept : "critical thought". This concept is quite radical and extremely difficult to grasp, and I therefor understand that, in search of efficiency, the professor resorted to a simple ban.

But Google itself is not a bad tool, just as Wackypedia is actually an interesting resource in some domains - as long as you are wary of what you read.

Then again, students will always be students. Why read a long, boring, technical book when you can get results with a 5-minute search ?

I think Google needs a Schoogle section, where it scans school books and makes searches only on the contents of those books. Larry ? Sergey ? That'll be just $50 million - by check please.

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Top 5 Search results on Google

I wonder how many of those were sponsored results!!

bloody pain in the ass those things are, almost entirely unrelated search results with no reference to what im looking for, but because some numpty has paid cash to Google they get top of the list

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Complicated issue? Not really

I've seen this discussed elsewhere, and while Wikipedia is obviously useless as a source (though may be a good starting point), the question of Google is a bit more difficult.

1. Searching the top 5 results on Google will obviously result in bland, similar essays.

2. Using reading lists can also result in bland essays, and ones that are specifically tailored to the lecturer's viewpoint.

3. Google allows students to search far more knowledge far quicker than an antiquated library system.

4. Searching antiquated library systems rather than having everything handed to you on a green plate in 0.0001 seconds is arguably a rewarding skill in itself.

Tricky issue, isn't it? Well, no. Not at all. She's a meeja studies lecturer. Whether her students spend five minutes on Google or five hours in the library, they'll still find nothing of intellectual value, nor will they write anything that adds to the sum of human knowledge. So it's all completely irrelevant.

I think someone's having a "where did my life go so wrong" moment.

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Improve wikipedia as an exercise

I, too, would be depressed if they were copying mediocre work from the web. But as a media studies professor I would expect a more media-friendly idea than banning, such as an exercise like 'take the current wikipedia entry' and the textbook and come up with a much better entry. Or find the top 5 google sites and point out where they are wrong, or what they are missing. Perhaps even create a defacto webpage on a subject that wikipedia can link to, or ends up at the top of google.

Surely using google, and understanding it's limitations, is pretty important both for research and media studies?

And if it ends up that google/wikipedia are improved by her class then would that be a bad thing?

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Dan
Flame

Pfft

The internet knows everything, surely it's just as reliable if what you read is filtered through a (hopefully developed) mesh of common sense. If they can't do that then why are they doing a degree in the first place?

Admittedly it's no replacement for books but as pointed out previously books are expensive and quite often even the newest reading lists that are handed out are listing out of date books. Not to mention that quite a lot of books can be found on the net by various means anyway...

This whole idea seems insane to me, i hope to hell it doesn't catch on....

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Happy

Schoogle... there is already...

Google already has a specific one for 'scholars' http://scholar.google.com/ which searches somewhat more scholarly literature rather than the generic claptrap of the interweb.

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Tara Brabazon?

you couldn't make it up, could you?

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@ Not wise

"People that don't know how to use the web need a lot more time to research stuff and are not exposed to as many points of view. Her student's won't be competitive professionals."

More likely they'll learn how to research properly and be *more* competitive. If they want to elevate Media Studies to the level of a degree subject (don't get me started on that), then they need to show that they have the research skills that are expected at that level of education. They do not require internet access to acheive that.

However, I think a far better idea would be to ban the course from universities. Any course that needs to have the word "studies" in the title should not be a batchelor's degree.

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@Stu

I think you're missing the epistemological aspect of her ban here - she is not banning students from studying Wikipedia, but rather banning them from citing Wikipedia.

I think rather that she is encouraging them to take a critical distance from the phenomena being studied, rather than engaging in an immersive study. This is significantly easier for undergraduate students to achieve because it places knowledge into a box.

There are several problems with citing any encyclopedia (and not just Wikipedia). For example, the work is not an original source - it is an interpreted article based on original research. As such it is prone to the editorial decisions of the author(s).

Wikipedia is often poorly referenced and if you cite an article from Wikipedia you do not actually know who are you citing. An anonymous 24 year old pretending to have a university degree? Or perhaps an unemployed housewife? Or maybe a recognized researcher who simply hasn't been credited properly in the article.

Wikipedia is a useful tool to start an enquiry into a subject and generate suggested references. It should not replace a library search, a journal search, and other solid searches for information.

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Happy

Yet another out of touch academic

What a suprise!

As an ex-student of Brighton University, all I can say is that some (not many I'll grant you) of the academics live in the real world, the rest walk around with their heads up their backsides. You choose which group Tara Brabazon belongs to!

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Alert

Not new at all..

When I was in Year 11 at school they had blocked Google.

Ok, we got round that by simply going onto the canadian google or Japanese google, but that didn't last long either...

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Unhappy

Back to the dark ages?

I wonder if the professor would prefer all bibles to be in Latin too?

Gleaning data from books is a skill that has to be learned. Gleaning facts from the internet is a different skill that also needs to be learned. The professor is right to mark down students who don't use the internet well but forcing them to not use the internet is a cop-out. Teach them how to use the internet well, or if you don't know how, get someone who does!

There are a lot of bad books, as well as bad web pages. If a student contributed to a factual web page they would get some idea of how inaccuracies appear and can be fixed (or not), bias, ...

Update your teaching rather than appearing as a Luddite.

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Wikipedia fact-checked by the elderly?

Yes please. If only.

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Yes and No

I am doing a doctorate in information security and while web resources are sometimes a useful starting place - especially when looking for bad boys code :-) - it is not a reliable resource for references. On average, any page on the web lasts around 6 months at most so any references you make to a web page could be out of date fairly rapidly. This is particularly true of Wikipedia entries and Google searches.

So a ban is correct when expecting final work to be handed in. But this doesn't prevent starting with a Web based resource just to get your head around the basics of a subject. However, Wikipedia is down the bottom of the list. Try Citeseer or Mathsworld or some of the online libraries instead.

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Anonymous Coward

Exam

5 marks, show all workings.

Jack is standing in a carefully tended apple orchard. Each tree is groomed and guarded and heavy with just-ripe fruit. Every tree is cousin to the next, selected and bred for colour, flavour, and ease of storage. Wide cleared paths make reaching the immaculate fruit easy.

Jill is standing in a copse of wild apple trees. The trees are tangled and twisted. Some trees are just fruiting, others are ripe while still more are overripe and rotting on the branches. Trees cross-pollinate and evolve, bearing green, red, yellow and mottled fruit in huge uneven clumps. Animals flit from tree to tree making their homes among the tangled branches and feasting on the hanging fruit. The air is sickly sweet with the smell of decay and fresh with the smell of new blossoms.

Joseph has access to both stands of trees and guidance on navigating and harvesting each. He has been carefully trained to work with the orthodoxy and quality of the orchard, and the chaos and variety of the wild copse and taught how to compare one apple to another and weigh its quality..

After 35 minutes, who will have learned the most about apples?

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Go

Bravo professor

Let's face a little reality here. Wikipedia is not up to research standard simply because their articles don't need to be true just verified (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/02/02/colbert_wikipedia_reality/) which is not at all the same thing. We can all decide to say today is wednesday and verify it but that does not make it true (it's tuesday by the way).

The ability to research properly (using tools like wiki and search eningines as well as other media) is an important skill for professional life and should not be undermined (or trashed) by laziness. Google and wikis are too easy to distort to be used (anywhere near) exclusively!

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Boffin

Alternatively

She could just tell her students their time would be better spent working on a real degree instead of 'media studies'

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What a twattish thing to say.

"...but if that media source is only fact-checked by the sick, the elderly and the under-employed..."

Because as we know, the sick and the elderly have nothing to contribute to the sum of human knowledge do they?

Arse

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Ian

/^[A-Z][a-z]+ studies$/ || /^[A-Z][a-z]+ology$/

I've said, half seriously, to me kids that the offer of funding them through University so they emerge with no debt (ie the position my wife and I were offered by the state in the early 1980s) doesn't apply for subjects ending in `studies' or 'ology', or at any institution that obtained the right to grant degrees in its own right since the Wilson government.

But Daddy, they said as we walked across our local (Russell Group) campus, what about biology? You're always saying that it may have been Rutherford's stamp collecting in the 1980s, but it's a real science now (and how sweet is it that an eleven year old can quote Rutherford's views on science?).

At that very moment we turned a corner and saw that the erstwhile biology department is now proudly flagged as Biological Sciences. Boom, and indeed boom.

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@stu

"Run a media course and ban one of the biggest and newest form of media!

So go back to (expensive) out of date books, just to do a degree course on how to work in Tesco's.."

Just because it is big, and new, does not make it accurate or reliable.

Text Books (old though they may be) are usually subjected to a peer review process that ensures accuracy. Wiki and Google have no guarantee of any such process.

The problem with Wiki? Simple. As stated above, it has no peer review process. So, I could go on there and publish pretty much anything. Sure, it has an editorial system, but this isn't the same thing. The editors are not experts on every area Wiki covers, so anyone can post any info on there (correct or not) as long as they can make it look convincing. One example of this is a forum I manage has it's own Wiki entry detailing it's history. I (or one of the other mods) have to frequently edit the entry to remove the changes made by an ex-member who has a vendetta against us.

The problem with Google? It indexes websites. Anyone can publish websites. I could publish a website giving a convincing argument on virtually any subject, regardless of how well I know it, and I know it'll be indexed by Google, and turn up on someone's google search.

Research on new media is fine, as long as you verify anything you learn via new media elsewhere. In my experience, most students (and doing tech support in a Uni, I've met a few) don't bother with this.

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Paris Hilton

Why not?

Personally I do not find the initiative that bad.

I guess by being prevented to refer directly to one source you are forced to correlate several results: it leads to better understanding usually... I say usually but then it depends on students themselves and their skills.

After all this is all about: measure skills and teach a method, rather than filter sources out.

I wonder how many results gave back a direct or indirect reference to Paris anyway...

G

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The interweb isn't going away

Why do people imagine you can construct educational tasks as if the web is a passing phenomenon. We will be using Google or its successors for the rest of our lives. To attempt to educate people to live without it is simply daft.

Sure, students need to develop critical skills - they shouldn't simply believe everything written in textbooks, either. But the lecturer's job is to nurture those skills, not to train students to live in an alternative universe without certain valuable information sources.

I declare an interest: I write as a lecturer...

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Anonymous Coward

@ Not wise

"More likely they'll learn how to research properly and be *more* competitive. If they want to elevate Media Studies to the level of a degree subject (don't get me started on that), then they need to show that they have the research skills that are expected at that level of education. They do not require internet access to acheive that."

I'm all for researching "properly" but that has nothing to do with where you get the information from, as long as you can and will verify, validate and generally speaking process that information well. I don't shy away from opening a book but I find that many times I get what I need from google, a lot quicker and yes, with better results. Whatever gets the job done is the way I see it, but this teacher seems to me to have the AMD (academic masochistic disorder): if it ain't hard to do, it ain't right.

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IT Angle

Just a

publicity stunt (you generally get a blasting for referencing websites in essays anyway) - I bet the reading list is heavily weighted in favour of the professor's own books too, or those which agree with her views (consciously or unconsciously selected).

While a university is supposed to be teaching critical thinking very few courses seem to do so anymore, rather they simply teach the professorial view of the subject.

Ironically it seems that this professor is arguing a return to the original purpose of universities and intends to "teach students to question, argue, debate and challenge" by banning them from challenging, questioning and arguing information sourced from other than prescribed texts. Way to go, and an original idea to boot.

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Boffin

Erm, why not use both?

What the hell is all this one or the other rubbish? Is there a law that states that you can only use books if you don't use the internet? The university that i went to (i won't mention it's name, i wouldn't want to damage it's reputation by being associated with me) would allow references from websites and wiki, but not on their own. You had to have multiple references from different kinds of sources, the idea being that it helps you sort the info from utter nonsense. Researching is a skill in it's own right, and needs to be taught from an early age. Quoting wiki is not researching, neither is quoting from the books that you are told to use. She is obviously a second rate lecturer in a third rate Uni. If i had gone there instead of the top notch uni i went to, i wouldn't admit it. I wouldn't want my reputation damaged by associating myself with it.

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BRIGHTON University?

Hah ha ha ha ha ha! ROFL, LMFAO etc. What a hoot!

She just wants some publicity before she applies for a post at a proper University.

<sound of Troll closing door behind him>

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From one Bachelor degree educated poster, to another?

@ Steve.

I'm guessing a Batchelor's degree is in soup making.

Did you perchance mean Bachelor's degree?

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Anonymous Coward

However, this is not the full story

http://technology.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/tech_and_web/the_web/article3182091.ece

She's not as crazy as I thought. Read that

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Nev
Coat

Yawn

All sounds more like media whoring than media studies.

Brighton Poly must be needing a few headlines.

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Boffin

Proper research

Researching using secondary sources is bad, this means Google and Wikipedia but also any encyclopedia (printed, web, CD) ,reviews, and abstract articles in newspapers and magazines ... all these are good for finding sources but should never be used as sources

Using a limited set of secondary sources will produce bland, similar work but so will a limited reading list ?

Perhaps they should teach how to research, using all available resources, and how to determine how reliable a source is?

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Reading list, my arse

"Reading list" is usually code for "lots of expensive, obscure and out of print books that propound obscure and out of date viewpoints". The coursework in reality often requires a maximum of 1-2 books and sometimes academic on or offline (paper) sources.

There are some lecturers who frequently review their reading list, of course - they're the ones with a reading list of about three books..

Far better to get students to verify their sources, than force a reading list.

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Well, fair enough

There's almost no information on the Web so it's not a big deal.

Seriously. People who think the web is a research tool are the ones who are out of touch. I've never seen a website which covered the same depth as even a small book on a subject and there are thousands of topics on which the web is silent. Or worse - try researching witchcraft or druidism on-line. It would take longer to find the small amount of useful information amongst the stream of tat than it would to order a book and have it delivered, and the book would contain 10-100 times more information.

The web is quite good for photographs, I have to say, but even then the resolution is normally far lower than even a cheap book.

Web research is to real research what Girls Aloud are to real music - it's popular with people who are too young to know better.

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This post has been deleted by a moderator

Shouldn't the marking reflect the quality of the work?

Why ban a useful tool? It is just a tool, and if a student produces "banal and mediocre work" no matter what the source they should be marked down on it.

I wonder how does she enforce the ban? Maybe she should ask the Chinese gov for some advice on how to restrict information :p

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Paris Hilton

Isn't there software to check the entries?

ISTR there is software out there that can scan and check for Goggle/Wiki copies and also for rehashed on-line articles.

It's also pretty obvious when you get students submitting entries that appear very similar.

By encouraging students to use Google they learn to wade through the piles of crap to dig out gems of information. I take it the Prof doesn't encourage wide and varied research methods including Wiki and Google. I can only assume she doesn't use them herself.

Or was she put off when she was looking for info on Paris -- I got to page four on Google before finding anything about Greek mythology.

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"Find the cheapest price for Winston Churchills in your area with Kelkoo!"

That's possibly the best thing in the world, ever. I'm off to buy a dozen Winston Churchills, hopefully i can get 24 hour delivery.

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@ Exam by anonymous coward

I'm assuming that your analogy of an orchard is supposed to lead us to the conclusion that the well ordered orchard allows faster investigation, hence your 35 minute time limit.

Proper investigation of a subject is not primarily focussed on speed however, and the disorganised chaotic orchard is likely to throw up some very unique and unusual information that is simply lacking in the ordered one.

I feel that the ban issued by this lecturer in this context is valid, I have heard other reports of schoolchildren who simply did not know that a book has an index, so this is an, albeit unsubtle, way to force students to learn how to use arguably 'better' sources. At a later date the two approaches can be combined to yield an optimum faster high quality resource, with a proper understanding of critically evaluating the source, before engaging with the information.

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Dead Vulture

Citing Wikipedia in a research paper

is equivalant to saying a guy in a bar told me..... minus the beer of course.

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Alert

Note to sixth-formers

This is another reason why employers will increasingly value (and pay for) hard science degrees where wikipedia can't really help much.

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what about the other search engines?

no love for google, but does she accept students using Yahoo!, MS Live, Ask, even *gasp* alta-vista?

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@Mahou

"I wonder how does she enforce the ban? "

Try Reading The F***ing Article (RTFA). Or even the Comments already posted.

Prof. Brabazon is banning _citations) of Wikipedia. If the student's argument cites _no_ sources, then it is downgraded accordingly. I'm guessing you have never been exposed to such a rigorous academic environment.

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Anonymous Coward

References?

Well, Google scholar (http://scholar.google.co.uk/ ) is quite a good way to see what other works use the references one is working on, and it is a fairly good tool to build a bibliography, as opposed to reading only the stuff you're given. This can lead to much better work.

Brighton professor doesn't have a clue, I'd say.

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Boffin

@Risky

"This is another reason why employers will increasingly value (and pay for) hard science degrees where wikipedia can't really help much."

Really? Are you a physics grad? All the physics grads i know cannot get a job in their field. Unless you want to do post grad, doctorate and really specialise in something (oh, and be a genius btw) you have no chance of a job.

Are you an Env. Science grad? No env grad i know has a job in any environment agency. They are all taken by English students. Most Env science grads go into teaching.

Hopefully you get the idea. "Hard" sciences are not very useful in the real world. Far more people graduate with science degrees than will ever be employed in a science discipline.

Anyway, back to the point:

The internet is actually full of information, but you have to learn to sift through all the rubbish to find useful stuff. Wiki is full of badly written, overly biased articles. You have to look really carefully to find something of use. The same goes for books however! Most books are written from one persons point of view. They can be rediculously biased and miss bits of information out that is inconvienient for the author's point of view.

Just because it's in print instead of on a computer screen doesn't make it true.

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Coat

Find the cheapest price for Winston Churchills in your area...

Ahh, but do they have Prince Albert in a can?

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Unhappy

you need some links yourselves

oh, and though you had a couple of links to ludicrous wikipedia entries (perhaps changed by now) you didn't even provide a link to what she actually said. Which is rather her point.

Speaking of links, I'm impressed by what you got from Google. Please provide the search string. When I typed "what do you think about the ban of google in brighton" and clicked on "submit" what I got was nothing like "We believe that more knowledge is more power..."

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