Eric Kunnen\’s GRCC Blog

Banning Google and Wikipedia in Learning?
January 20, 2008, 3:29 pm
Filed under: Articles

So I came across this article written in The Argus which is a newspaper in a city called Brighton in the United Kingdom. The article was entitled: “Lecturer bans students from using Google and Wikipedia”. So needless to say I wanted to read it to see if I could decipher the logic around banning electronic media and resources from learning, which is a philosophy that 180 degree opposite from my view of educational technology around leveraging web based tools in teaching and learning.

According to the article a professor, named Tara Brabazon, from the University of Brighton decided to ban her students from using Google, Wikipedia, and other web sites while doing their research.

To me, this seems almost impossible to enforce, and in my opinion it would actually do the opposite of what she is intending. That is, she wants students to produce the best work they possibly can. In my opinion, preventing students from using one of the best search tools (Google) on the Internet severely limits a students ability to track down and find all sources of relevant information that could be used in their research. Now I’m not suggesting that all of a student’s time be spent in Google. Using Library based databases and resources are still valuable and part of a blended approach to conducting research, however, banning the Web seems backward to me.

The professor instead, provides the students with a reading list to work from which seems to me to be limiting the possibility and potential of locating a wealth of related work using the power of the Internet.

Professor Tara Brabazon writes: “Too many students don’t use their own brains enough. We need to bring back the important values of research and analysis.” I think this is probably the best quote from the article. It’s true. We need to develop and provide thought provoking curricula to engage students and provide a deep level of knowledge attainment. Banning web resources doesn’t create a more deep understanding of any topic since the web contains information that can provide a robust level of learning when coupled with a well designed learning activity.

The Web is one of the best resources for research – ever. When I was growing up encyclopedias were considered a good research tool. They were out of date before they even went to print, and if there was a mistake in the data represented it couldn’t be corrected easily and you would have to wait until the next revision of the encyclopedia set. The web, on the other hand, provides real time updates, connections to related information, rich multimedia, and a wide array of community-based viewpoints.

Now, I DO think it is necessary, and the responsibility for educational institutions, librarians, and professors to provide students with the ability to discern, evaluate, and determine the validity of information on the Internet. It is part of our duty as educators to provide the basic general skill of information literacy.   I think this is especially true since most students turn to Google first!  Here is a recent poll that we took on our Blackboard Community Portal:


Banning the use of Google, Wikipedia, and other web resources seems limiting and doesn’t leverage the ability of technology to produce enhanced and efficient research, learning, and access to resources that are not easily accessible in hard copy or print format.

What is your opinion?


2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Great post Eric! I read her article and here are my (random) thoughts…

Commercial speech is more restricted than individual speech. That’s because false advertising can be harmful. Still, outright bans are always “suspect.”

In her case, the real problem seems to be that students use the first search results they find. So, is a complete ban the solution? I say NO! There’s a real opportunity for learning here. Explain why the first results are not always the best. Teach them to be discerning.

The only thing that needs to be banned here is relying on the first search result (and knee-jerk solutions).

Comment by gbrand

favorited this one, guy

Comment by Connorkp

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