February 10, 2016

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Digital Research Technologies Offer More Information, More Distraction for High School Students, According to Pew Report

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Digital research tools have a “mostly positive effect” on students’ work, according to 75 percent of teachers surveyed for a recent report from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. But 87 percent of those teachers contend that these technologies also foster an “easily distracted generation with short attention spans,” and 64 percent believe that they “do more to distract students than to help them academically.”

The report, “How Teens Do Research in the Digital World,” was conducted in association with the College Board and the National Writing Project with the goal of exploring how teenagers’ research habits are evolving in the digital age.

Though the Internet offers a plethora of accessible research options, students’ literacy skills “have yet to catch up,” the report’s overview states.

Data for the 115-page report was culled from an online survey of more than 2,000 middle and high school teachers from the advanced placement (AP) and National Writing Project (NWP) communities, along with online and in-person focus groups made up of teachers and students.

Key findings include the following:

“Virtually all (99 percent) AP and NWP teachers in this study agree with the notion that ‘the Internet enables students to access a wider range of resources than would otherwise be available,’ and 65 percent agree that ‘the Internet makes today’s students more self-sufficient researchers.’ ”

“76 percent of teachers surveyed ‘strongly agree’ with the assertion that Internet search engines have conditioned students to expect to be able to find information quickly and easily.”

“Large majorities also agree with the notion that the amount of information available online today is overwhelming to most students (83 percent) and that today’s digital technologies discourage students from using a wide range of sources when conducting research (71 percent).”

“Fewer teachers, but still a majority of this sample (60 percent), agree with the assertion that today’s technologies make it harder for students to find credible sources of information.”

“Given these concerns, it is not surprising that 47 percent of these teachers strongly agree and another 44 percent somewhat believe that courses and content focusing on digital literacy should be incorporated into every school’s curriculum.”

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  1. Sue Parsons says:

    If 47 percent of these teachers strongly agree and another 44 percent somewhat believe that courses and content focusing on digital literacy should be incorporated into every school’s curriculum, then they, parents, and school boards must support school and public librarians whose job it is to teach digital literacy.

  2. We need to keep strugggling to prove our existence and role. Some schools outside US or where I live in the Middle East find librarian’s role reduced and this is in a way frustrating. Teachers and IT staff are taking over our role. We are left just providing sources and material for them. Despite all this, I never lose hope and I always keep reminding the school of how much we can offer to our students and staff.


  1. […] in increased distraction and decreased literary skills? This is elaborated further in the article Digital Research Technoligies Offer More Information, More Distraction for High School Students, Acc…  by Sara Bayliss and published in the School Library Journal’s November 2012 Extra Helping […]