Dr Peter Stordy
BEd (Manchester), MSc (Essex), PhD (Sheffield)
Dr. Peter Stordy - Undergraduates' Internet Literacies
PhD Thesis submitted to the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Sheffield, January 2012
This study explores information management undergraduates’ and their teachers’ perceptions of being Internet literate, of Internet literacy and their Internet-related practices, with the aim of identifying implications for information departments’ pedagogy and curriculum. In particular, it explores the extent to which popular digital native narratives surrounding students’ use of the Internet, coincide with the outcomes of this study.
Following a constructivist qualitative methodology, focus groups and interviews were conducted with a cohort of 24 undergraduates at the beginning and end of their Information Management studies. Interviews were also conducted with the 17 academics who taught these undergraduates. The information collected was analysed using techniques developed from Naturalistic Inquiry and Constructivist Grounded Theory. This enabled the reconstruction of the multiple realities that exist within the school in relation to the study’s aims.
Academics perceived that being Internet literate involved the development of a set of competencies, capabilities and qualities that spanned the entire range of Bloom’s cognitive and affective taxonomy. They were critical of students’ academic-related Internet skills, particularly to find authoritative sources, but aligned themselves with the digital native rhetoric when talking about students’ non-academic Internet use. This contrasted with undergraduates, who had an information searching centric perceptions of being Internet literate, both at the beginning and end of their studies, and were highly confident in the areas they associated with being Internet literate, including being able to find Internet sources. Furthermore, students felt they had ‘picked-up’ their Internet-related skills, as opposed to have been taught them.
This study concludes that undergraduates’ Internet literacies, coupled with their perception of their own Internet-related abilities and how they became Internet literate, are potentially at odds with academics’ understandings of undergraduates’ Internet literacies and their role in facilitating students’ Internet literacies. This study suggests that unless this divide is bridged, the effective development of undergraduates’ Internet literacies within many information schools and departments may be hindered.