Students are increasingly so dependent on the Internet for their information that critical thinking programs that do not address the form and quality of persuasion on that medium are flirting with an anachronistic pedagogy. This paper documents the absorption of postsecondary students with the Internet as a source of "knowledge", spells out the attendant dangers, and suggests the essential first step in applying critical thinking to the Internet.
Critical thinking is the systematic evaluation of the arguments of others (Browne and Keeley, 1998). In a world where arguments and counterarguments flourish with respect to almost all social questions, students have a fundamental need for the development of attitudes and skills that permit them to negotiate the inescapable dissensus that surrounds them. But why focus on the arguments that arrive via the Internet?
The answer is direct and compelling. Students are increasingly so dependent on the Internet for their information that critical thinking that does not address the form and quality of persuasion on that medium are flirting with an anachronistic pedagogy. This paper documents the absorption of postsecondary students with the Internet as a source of "knowledge", spells out the attendant dangers, and suggests the essential first step in applying critical thinking to the Internet.
Increasing Dependence of Students on Computers as a Source for Their Conclusions
The vastness of the Internet has something for everyone. We use it to communicate, to play, to work. As the Internet becomes ubiquitous on college campuses (In 1996, USA Today reported that the campus market accounted for over seven million Internet users), students are finding more and more ways to use computer technology. Because the Internet has its roots in universities as well as in business, it is not surprising that more and more students are conducting academic research on-line.
Increasingly upon announcing a research paper assignment, educators are faced with the question of whether students can use the Web for their research (Sorapure et al. 1998). Are these students asking simply out of curiosity? Will the Internet be a last resort in their searches for information? Probably not, according to recent studies. In 1998, after conducting a study at three universities in the southeastern United States, Perry, Perry and Curlin concluded that university students use the Internet with regularity. Further reports support that conclusion. A survey conducted in 1997 at the University of Texas at Austin found that seventy-three percent of the 531 students surveyed use the Internet at least once a week. Of those students, over ninety-one percent were online for academic purposes; over eighty-five percent used the World Wide Web at least once a week, while fifty-four percent went on-line to access library services (Scherer, 1997).
A survey conducted in the 1998 fall semester by the American Council on Education and the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at the University of California at Los Angeles found that nearly eighty-three percent (82.9) of new freshman said they use the Internet for homework or research. This survey received responses from...
This is a preview. Get the full text through your school or public library.