MEDIA ADVISORY: Schools Facing Learning Crisis Spawned by Internet

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Expert to share new research showing Facebook generation of students need online literacy skills

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These results (of the federal study) are cause for serious concern

Schools around the nation are facing a learning crisis caused by the Internet, a national expert will tell superintendents Monday.

Dr. Donald Leu, lead researcher for a compelling study funded by the U.S. Department of Education about students' Internet use, will tell Texas educators how to deal with the urgent problem and consequences of children's online learning.

"These results (of the federal study) are cause for serious concern," said Don Leu, former teacher, national authority on integrating technology into instruction, and contributing author for print and digital classroom materials developed by Pearson. "Anyone can publish anything on the Internet and today's students are not prepared to critically evaluate the information they find there."

Pearson, the leading provider of educational technology, materials and services, is sponsoring Dr. Leu's address to superintendents and other Texas education leaders on Monday, Jan. 31 from 9:30-10:30 a.m. at the Texas Association of School Administrators Conference. His featured session will be held in Ballroom F at the Austin Convention Center, 500 E. Cesar Chavez St.

An alarming number of the Facebook generation of students known as "digital natives" for their tech saviness fail to recognize or process accurate facts found online and are graduating from school without important skills needed to meet the demands of college and the workforce, said Dr. Leu, founder and director of the New Literacies Research Lab at the University of Connecticut--the only academic research center of its kind.

Most students "simply have very little in the way of critical evaluation skills," he said. "They may tell you they don't believe everything they read on the Internet, but they do."

As an example, students identified by their schools as the most proficient online readers participated in a study at the New Literacies lab. They too fell short in the ability to critically analyze what they found on the Internet. In the research study, they were asked to learn about an effort to "Save the Endangered Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus." Students had no problem locating a website dedicated to the cause ( and insisted on the existence of the made-up story, even after researchers explained the information on the website was completely fabricated.

Studies show students tend to "evaluate the reliability" of information they find on the Internet based on the volume of information they find about the subject, not on whether the information is reasonable or even believable, Leu said.

Rather than use a traditional search engine such as Google or Yahoo, Leu's studies show about half of seventh graders simply type what they believe will be an appropriate website address into the address bar. For example, rather than googling "George Washington" to search a series of references about America's first president, students will simply type in "".

"That's what children do with their rock stars and their other cultural stars. They are accustomed to typing in the name and adding '.com.' That often doesn't work for real academic research," Leu said.

Among students who do actually use search engines for research, many do not know how to use the results, he said. Typically, students will click on the first listing at the top of the search results page and take a quick look at that, then continue down the list without looking closely at the source of the website to determine if it is the best provider of the information they need.

"Often they pass right by the website they should be looking at because it doesn't look like the website they have in their mind," Leu said.

Failing to deal with the problem of how children use the Internet for learning could have dire consequences for education, Leu said. Schools need to teach students important skills such as how to use Internet search engines and how to decipher the information they receive, he added.    
"The challenge is we're not preparing kids in the classroom for these new online reading skills. If kids are largely going to use the Internet now and in the future, these skills for online comprehension" must be included in what teachers teach," Leu said.

Educators can use strategies to help students discern among the massive amount of online material available. Dr. Leu will tell educators Monday about approaches to help children focus on the right sources of information and make critical decisions about where to find and use reliable information.

The Neag Endowed Chair in Literacy and Technology, Dr. Leu earned his teaching certification and Doctorate in Language and Literacy from the University of California at Berkley and Master's of Education in Reading and Human Development from Harvard University.

About Pearson and Texas
Pearson (NYSE:PSO) is Texas' leading provider of technology in the classroom and has been supplying education materials to Texas schools as far back as the 1800s. You may know us individually as Scott Foresman, Prentice Hall, Longman, SuccessMaker, NovaNet, PowerSchool, Educational Measurement, Educational Assessment, SuccessNet, Learning Teams, and so many more - names in the world of education that are recognized and respected across the State and the globe. In fact, most teachers in Texas have learned their profession by studying with Pearson's Merrill or Allyn & Bacon textbooks, and many have benefited from our professional development programs. We provide education and testing materials from birth through professional learning as well as the school systems that maintain student information data for thousands of schools. Our business offices are located in Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio, but our 2,000 Pearson people are living and working in every school district across the state. For more information, go to

Kate Miller


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