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Info Literacy Investigation Daily Play Lottery Task

Page history last edited by bradyx 12 years ago



Information Seeking Activities – Daily Play Lottery Task




The whole information seeking activity was introduced and participants were encouraged to name all of the resources available to them in a study centre. This introduction made them aware they had access to books, journals, newspapers, computers and the study centre team for guidance if they needed it. The Daily Play Lottery question was offered early on in the activities to investigate the search techniques for finding a specific piece of information.



The Question:


Task: In what year was the daily play lottery started?


An overwhelming majority answered this simple question incorrectly. There were many reasons for this and will be discussed in turn.


Fig: A – Overall answers






There were many techniques used but worryingly exposed a very surface level use of Google or level to which the question was read and answered. The amount of direct copy and paste was alarming and correlated closely to the figures for answering with the incorrect answer 1994 which is in fact the date of the National Lottery start date, not the Daily Play Lottery start date (Fig B)


Fig B: Copy/Paste and Incorrect answers





Those who appeared to read the question or abbreviate the question to ‘Daily Play Lottery’ also appeared to process what they were looking for and searched for the daily play beyond the first page of Google. This offered a slightly more in depth investigation of the question, not necessarily taking the first answer they found, and certainly not that of the national lottery. This is evident from the pattern of those who abbreviated their questions and the correlating pattern of correct answers.


Fig C: Abbreviated questioning and correct answers





During this task one student epitomised the stereotypical vision of students today multi-tasking between several tools and processes at the same time. As you can see from the video below this student was listening to music, using the computer and sending text messages on her mobile phone.



What is also interesting about this student is the question she inputs into Google ‘National Lottery’. Unfortunately the question was 'Daily Play Lottery'. She also spelt her version of the question incorrectly and Google picked up on this and corrected it for her. This is not to say her distraction of listening to music and texting was to blame for the mistakes made but certainly does raise this as a question.


Interestingly this particular young lady was not one of those who entered the first answer she came across and did eventually look beyond the national lottery answer realising that the 'daily play' was the question, but sadly though she still answered the question incorrectly with the year 1889?


She is certainly not alone in multi-tasking between different tools or distractions and certainly not alone when it comes to entering the wrong question, a large number did the same.


Fig 1.1: Example of L2 student response




Many of those who answered with the national lottery date 1994 did so in quite a worrying way. When the search engine results were returned, many didn't even enter into the links on offer to read the web pages, but instead took their answer from the preview text in the search results. This indicated a worrying habit of very shallow search techniques and reliance that Google and even the preview text could give an instant answer without having to make the effort to enter websites.


The answer 1994 was given by the overwhelming majority and sourced widely from Wikipedia or the Google preview text on the Wikipedia link.

Fig 1.2: Google Preview Text




Fig 1.3: Wikipedia Website





Other answers offered ranged from 1967, 1994, 2001 and 2011. Interestingly all of these come up if you type this question into Google, ‘In what year did the national lottery start?’ again a worrying indicator that there was misinterpretation or misreading of the question. However many who entered this as ‘National Lottery’ also claimed they had put the exact question into Google.


Fig 1.4: Other dates offered as answer




Some answered with the first answer that could be found that related to the ‘daily play’ lottery. The answer 2011 was the year it finished, not started.


Fig 1.5: Daily Play end date




Those who did get the correct answer, or an answer closest to the start date, mainly got their answers from one of two sources (Fig 1.6 & Fig 1.7):


Fig 1.6: The Daily Mirror Website




Fig 1.7: www.myledbury.co.uk







It is interesting that this task has exposed high levels of copy and paste and high levels of surface level Google searching. It is also interesting that a range of sites or sources were used to find the answer. It needs to be noted that this task was conducted without the use of the National Lottery site as this was blocked by our Firewall. However it was felt that although this key site was missing its absence may have promoted some deeper searching techniques that we could investigate, but in fact it highlighted the complete opposite. Had the lottery site actually been available to use this could have potentially promoted an even shallower search technique for the answer which could have been even more worrying. The additional observations during this task were that most participants also did not search beyond the first page of Google results to get an answer.





To see such an overwhelming percentage for the incorrect answer, the use of copy and paste and very shallow search techniques is a very worrying factor for education. There is clearly a need to promote better Google practice or information literacy within the college.  


What is most concerning is that the high levels of copy and paste was not just for those in the early stages of education, but those who were adults on high level professional qualifications. This is not just an issue in younger learners it is wide-spread amongst many levels. Exact copy and paste ranged from 40% to 90% a very worrying figure suggesting that the question is not necessarily being processed. This lack of processing or properly reading the question could also be to blame for its interpretation with many reverting to ‘National Lottery’ instead of ‘Daily Play Lottery’. Even those who entered the question correctly still answered with the ‘National Lottery’ date, again possibly another symptom of not reading and digesting but copying and pasting.


The most interesting issue about this is that all the tasks were conducted on a paper worksheet that indicates that copy and paste is not just something confined to computers. This practice is also evident when copying word for word a question off a piece of paper. Is the copying of word for word processing the question, we would have to say no due to the amount of people who made errors either copying the question or answering it as ‘The National Lottery’ rather than ‘Daily Play Lottery’.


Unfortunately this issue is not due to technology but much deeper than that, entering word for word in key strokes is not necessarily the issue here. This is an indication that Google is only as good as those inputting the right data and then sorting the wheat from the chaff for the right answer. The human element here needs addressing urgently. There also needs to be a realisation that Google offers answers but it is the user who determines which are useful and which are not. The reliance and confidence that Google is giving the right answers is very evident in this task, even to the level that some participants did not even see it as relevant to visit websites for deeper clarification or checking, gaining their answer from the preview text (Fig: 1.2).


This task heavily indicates that support in search techniques and evaluating information sources from Google results is crucial.



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