University Of Tasmania

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Surfing Blind: a study into the effects of exposing young adolescents to explicit search engine skills

posted on 2023-05-26, 13:37 authored by Morrison, R
The Internet has provided today’s students with “history’s greatest library” (Worzel, 2012, p. 9). It is in their homes, their schools and frequently even in their pockets. Yet this powerful educational tool with its almost infinite opportunities, it has been argued, is going largely under-utilized where “many learners struggle to find information in this overwhelming information environment” (Eagleton & Guinee, 2002, p. 7). Many studies have examined a skill-deficit exhibited by young adolescents when using online search engines. Little is known, however, about the potential benefits of exposing students to explicit search engines skills, nor their desire for such exposure and the way they view their role when conducting searches online. Using mixed methods within a pragmatic framework, the current study explores the degree to which exposure to explicit skills for using search engines affects young adolescents’ online searching? It also seeks to provide a better understanding of any skill deficits present and the potential for improved searching by analyzing students’ online searching behaviours through a semiotic lens. This study discusses the participants’ poor searching abilities in light of their lack of previous exposure to such skills, as well as a misplaced confidence in their existing skillset. It reveals a tendency on the students’ behalf to view their role as passive and subordinate when conducting online searches, and a reluctance to change this view despite exposure to explicit skills. In addition, the research reveals the impact time, and student perception of time, has on their searching behaviors. Finally, the study’s findings that young adolescents are willing to change, and attempt to improve, their searching behaviours post such exposure justifies further research in this area. As does the suggestion that “by teaching students how to be more skillful Web navigators […] we increase the effectiveness of the Web as a resource” (Henry, 2006, p. 625).





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Griffith University

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