"We found no matter where students are enrolled, no matter what information resources they have at their disposal, and no matter how much time they have, the abundance of information technology and the proliferation of digital information resources have made research uniquely paradoxical.
Information is now as infinite as the universe, but finding the answers needed is harder than ever.
Our ongoing research confirms proficiency in information problem solving is urgent, given the dauntingly vast and complex wilderness of information available digitally. As one student in humanities said during one of our focus groups, "What's so frustrating to me about conducting research is the more you know, the more you realize how little you know -- it's depressing, frustrating and suffocating."
When we surveyed undergraduates last spring in a large-scale survey, eight in 10 of our 8,353 respondents reported having overwhelming difficulty even starting research assignments and determining the nature and scope of what was expected of them.
As one engineering student explained, "None of the old-timers -- the old professors -- can really give us much advice on sorting through and evaluating resources ... we're kind of one of the first generations to have too much information, as opposed to too little."
We argue evaluation, interpretation and synthesis are the key competencies of the 21st century. These information-literacy skills allow us to find what we need, filter out what we do not and chart a course in an ever-expanding frontier of information. Information literacy is the essential skill set that cuts across all disciplines and professions.
It is time for many educators to stop lamenting about "these kids today" and retool and prioritize the learning of skills for solving information problems if students are to learn and master critical thinking at all. Or, as one student in social sciences we interviewed told us, "College is about knowing how to look at a problem in multiple ways and how to think about it analytically -- now, that's something I'll use in my life."
I can imagine using these in instruction...maybe having students agree or disagree--a way to start the conversation about the skills that are needed today? What do you think?