According to a new study from the Educational Testing Service, college students know how to use the web but the vast majority don’t know what to do with what they find there.

While ETS conducted the study to promote a new test for ICT (information and communications technology) Literacy they would love to sell, I’d bet their general findings are probably valid.

Few test takers demonstrated effective information literacy skills, and students earned only about half the points that could have been awarded. Females fared just as poorly as males. For instance, when asked to select a research statement for a class assignment, only 44 percent identified a statement that captured the assignment’s demands. And when asked to evaluate several Web sites, 52 percent correctly assessed the objectivity of the sites, 65 percent correctly judged for authority, and 72 percent for timeliness. Overall, 49 percent correctly identified the site that satisfied all three criteria.

Results also show that students might even lack the basics on a search engine like Google. When asked to narrow a search that was too broad, only 35 percent of students selected the correct revision. Further, 80 percent of students put irrelevant points into a slide program designed to persuade an audience.

But don’t these “digital natives” just pick up all this stuff on their own?

Katz [an ETS researcher] said that he hopes the results will inspire more universities to support initiatives to improve information literacy. “These abilities need to be learned,” he said. “Students just don’t pick them up on their own.”

So, can we also talk about improving information literacy for students before they get to college?

information literacy, ets