A report from Ethnographic Research in Illinois Academic Libraries documents research done on "digital native" college students to evaluate their skill with refining searches, evaluating search results, and navigating thorny questions of authority and trust in online sources. The researchers concluded that despite their subjects' fluency with the technology, the mental models and critical thinking they brought to bear on search results had real problems:
The prevalence of Google in student research is well-documented, but the Illinois researchers found something they did not expect: students were not very good at using Google. They were basically clueless about the logic underlying how the search engine organizes and displays its results. Consequently, the students did not know how to build a search that would return good sources. (For instance, limiting a search to news articles, or querying specific databases such as Google Book Search or Google Scholar.)
Duke and Asher said they were surprised by "the extent to which students appeared to lack even some of the most basic information literacy skills that we assumed they would have mastered in high school." Even students who were high achievers in high school suffered from these deficiencies, Asher told Inside Higher Ed in an interview.
In other words: Today's college students might have grown up with the language of the information age, but they do not necessarily know the grammar.
Lisa Gold concludes: "How are students supposed to acquire these important digital and information literacy skills if they aren't being taught in schools, many parents and teachers lack these skills themselves, and the librarians who have the skills are basically ignored or fired as libraries close in record numbers?"
What Students Don't Know (Inside Higher Education)
Yet another study shows that "digital natives" suck at searching (Lisa Gold)
(Image: Digital Native, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from wakingtiger's photostream)