Can You Ban Google?
January 28, 2008

GoogleBy Simon Bucks, Associate Editor

A University lecturer in Brighton has banned her students from using Wikipedia and Google.

Professor Tara Brabazon says: "The education world has pursued new technology with an almost evangelical zeal and it is time to take a step back and give proper consideration of how we use it.

"Too many students don't use their own brains enough. We need to bring back the important values of research and analysis."

She may have a point about Wikipedia. As a source it is not always reliable. But banning Google seems to me extraordinary. It's like banning her students from looking something up in the index of a book. Google isn't a source, it's a tool.

The good Prof. also declares: "I want students to sit down and read. It's not the same when you read it online. I want them to experience the pages and the print as much as the digitisation and the pixels. both are fine but I want them to have both, not one or the other, not a cheap solution."

Mark Glaser blogs on Mediashift that he has some sympathy with the Professor's view.

He says:  "I spend a ridiculous amount of time on the Internet and lately have become concerned that it has actually changed the way I think for the worse."

I remember life before Google. We knew a lot less, and If we wanted to find something out, it took much longer.

Is this the start of a backlash against digital learning? Or are  Prof. Brabazon and Mr. Glaser dinosaurs thrashing about in the swamps of pre-history?

Written by Sky News, January 28, 2008


I worked in IT putting together complicated server solutions. Being able to search for compatibility and other issues on Google got us out of many a sticky hole.

Quite agree re Wikipedia, I do not use it at all as it can be added to by just anyone and may be wrong.

However I do not understand wanting to ban search engines whether Google or someone else!

Having said that I do prefer a book, but that is just my personal opinion and nothing to do with disliking computers! I have always loved books and while I find the net invaluable if given the choice of studying with books or online it is books every time.

Alex (Open University student)

A lot of well-considered and balanced views, largely from critical students.
What a pity their spelling and punctuation sucks, and as for their use of the dreaded apostrophe, Oy gevalt!

Sites like Wiki are full of disinformation. I think most schools are aware that students copy and paste from the Internet to complete their home work. It even happens at University level.

But lets put thi into perspective. How many books are themselves gospel truth ?

Look at the hype over the "da vinci code" people read this as pure truth and not a novel.

Perhaps schools etc should teach people that the source of any information should be taken at face value and verified by further study.

Its more a case of bad teaching practice that does not stimulate students to research their own findings and beliefs to get to the truth.

Apart from proper text books and other accurate text books anything should be taken at face value.

At least WIKI has the option of peer review so in theory gross errors should in theory get edited out eventually.

Students should be encouraged to investigate, perhaps their homework should be more based on gather many sources and write a review on what you think is the real truth about the subject. That would then encourage them to seak out more views and come to their own opinions. Its called study.

Technology does seem to be dumbing the western world down. Satnav's remove the need to read maps, predictive text removes the need to spell entire words, computer gaming removes any physical or mental exertion from play. Children grow up on instant food, music, TV, communication, information and imagination. Some children now roll around on wheels in their shoes, they don't even have to walk from the house to the car that drives them to the school gates.

I understand these Professors' arguments and sympathise. Technology should be one tool used to gain or achieve something not the only tool.

I think the banning of 'Google' a bit extreme, it is after all only an index to the web, but 'Wikipedia' is nothing more than a hodge podge of random information gathered and written by people who know or think they know a lot about a random subject.

As a more mature person, who reads comments that standards are being affected by taking advantage of new technology, I think it strange that universities do not take issue with the topics such as the reported decline in student ability in use of English than getting worked up about students using new technology.
We live in a country that has never accepted new innovations easily.
When the revolution of the steam engine arrived, there were those who claimed that the body would burst at speeds in excess of 30mph.
When the car arrived, we were the only country to make it law that a man with a red flag walk in front of this "new fangled gadget".
The advent of the aeroplane brought on a hostile response from the British establishment which refused to countenance that this invention would ever catch on.
In some ways, Britain never changes.
I bet that those young and intelligent people who are now studying in the halls of residence inhabited by people like myself in the past, will continue to make their way in the world, as my generation did, despite the concerns of "the Establishment"
I remember flouting establishment thinking myself, although what about is a fairly dim memory. It seems that the establishment always has to catch up with the "house of tomorrow" that all young people inhabit, and which it cannot easily fathom.

I can understand the banning of Wikipedia, being a srudent myself in Dublin, we are also not allowed to use/cite wikipedia. Information on the site is put up there by people who may or may not know what they are talking about. Writing essays or theses based on inaccurate information could be detrimental to the grade. I do not however agree with the banning of google, especially now that Google Scholar has been set up. It is the first place that i will go to look for the basis of an essay.

I would never condone banning anything, much less Google or Wikipedia, but I wanted to make a larger point about how we use our minds in the Internet age and how easy it is to become dependent on online tools. Of course everything is simpler now, and I'm thankful for it. But I think that just like with anything else, we have to look at the trade-offs and the downsides of the tools we love. I do not share Brabazon's harsh stance (indeed, I believe digital learning is not only beneficial but necessary), but I do think it's helpful to remember the way we used to do things in order to better use the tools we have now.

it might be a good idea to limit citations from google or wiki, but banning the use of these references altogether is indicative of some real paradigm paralysis

I disagree entirely with the professors view and would perhaps go thus far as to say that she may herself be afraid of information technology and uses it everyday. If I may firstly correct the pro on a few facts.
(1) As stated herein Google is a tool/search engine.
(2) One does utilise one brain when making such searches.
(3) 99% of students do sit down when online.
(4) 100% of those online read the pages, albeit electronically and feel the keyboard more than they would if they were just turning a page.
(5) Oh look theres a mouse.
(6) Books also are not a reliable source and destroy the planet more than IT.
(7) I bet she has access to Google at home all times.
(8) In the real world, driven by technology, 80% of what your learn at uni wont be utilised, so you better get used to google.
Any questions, just ask "Chaka Khan" cos "I Feel For You".
So, the moral of the story is, the more resourses available to the student, the more creative and intituitive he or she will become as opposed to being restricted to preferred choices by those whom are there to inspire and adjudge according to input.
(Source: My brain)

While I agree that internet access to 'information sites' could turn students into copy-cats,a complete ban is too extreme.
The professor would have issued a threat to 'mark down' any student found to have lifted information from those internet sites without declaring it to their tutor.
Google and Wikipedia have a lot to offer. As long as students who have used the sites also express themselves in their OWN words I dont see any seriuos harm.That would confirm that they (at least) understand the PRINCIPLES of their subject rather than learning by rote. I can see the blanket ban being reversed very soon.It appears to be a knee jerk reaction.
N Odje

As a University student I can understand a lecturers point of view of which they want their students to use their full potential and research properly. However banning Google and Wikipedia is ridiculous, the internet is there for a reason and everyone needs to adjust to the modern ages that demand high use of information technology. I believe students today have a bigger opportunity to educate themselves using the internet in comparison to say 20 years ago. Instead of completely banning the use of internet I know a lot of good lecturers in my University that request their students to provide a bibliography, where a student state in a particular format which sources of material were used in their assignment. Lecturers can therefore state that they wish to have atleast 10 references (for example) from academic journals, text books and other literature. This will eventually encourage wider reading and enhancing students knowledge of the internet.

Any method of learning and gaining knowledge has to be approved..surely?

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