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Think Magazine

So you think you can Google?

In the age of wikis and countless other Web resources, finding answers to questions such as "When did William Faulkner publish The Sound and the Fury? " takes only a few seconds. But how does one research more complex questions such as, "How much money did Senator Barney Frank raise in 2007-08?"

In January, the second Digital Information Literacy Contest at Purdue posed 75 such questions to 120 students, faculty, staff, and community members in four Stanley Coulter computer labs. Armed with a PC and Internet access, each contestant attempted to correctly answer as many questions as they could in 30 minutes.
"This contest tests Internet-enabled intelligence, which may be as relevant today as traditional, non-networked intelligence," says contest creator and recent philosophy graduate Daniel Poynter. "Leveraging the Internet like a mental prosthetic may help you thrive in accelerating technological and social change."

Poynter conceived the idea for the contest during his sophomore year. He developed it in 2007, in lieu of a summer job, with both Purdue and West Lafayette Libraries, and two months later the first contest had 50 contestants. "One idea behind the contest is to identify top performers, find out what makes them tick, and then spread their insights and techniques to others," says Poynter. "This way, people can be empowered by the Internet to help maintain our democratic institutions."

Poynter is working with Purdue professors to publish insights gained from the third Digital Information Literacy Contest, which was held in September. He is also working with fellow Purdue students John Bohlmann and George Tebbetts to create a nonprofit to start contests at other universities. The University of Florida and Indiana University recently signed on and will hold the contest this fall using a turnkey package Poynter's team created.

Poynter recommends contacting experts at your local library to learn how to best search the Internet. And he reveals that publishes fundraising facts for politicians, including Senator Frank.

Indiana University Libraries

Digital Literacy Comes Alive

Future reference librarians of America answer me this: what is the username of the person who edited the Wikipedia article 'Exxon' on August 26, 2007 at 4:02am?

Stumped? Ponder it too long and you might be the only one left without an answer. If the recent Digital Literacy Contest, co-sponsored by the IUB Libraries and the ALA-SC, is any indication, the newest generation of undergraduates can not only answer that question, but in lightning-fast time, they can find a credible online source to back up their response. Furthermore - and this is the kicker - they understand the importance of establishing the credibility of their sources.

No big surprise, you might say, what with kids these days practically born navigating the Internet. But worth noting here is a new tool available to librarians and students that helps measure how the strength of students' perceived searching abilities actually stacks up against scholarly research methods. The tool is this thing called the Digital Literacy Contest.And on Tuesday, September 30th, IUB hosted its inaugural event.

Some history: The Digital Literacy Contest is the brainchild of Purdue alum Daniel Poynter, and is a component of his company, Global Networked Intelligence Contests (GNIC). Developed last year as a way to evaluate how students use the Internet as a "mental prosthetic" of sorts, GNIC equates these contests to a "Tour de France of Internet-enabled minds." The goal is to assess how students are handling technology-driven information overload, specifically, if they have the tools needed to both access and evaluate sources of credible information. Poynter's inspiration for the contest came after reading many influential works on the ways in which technology is changing our society, such as Alvin Toffler's Future Shock and Thomas Friedman's The World Is Flat.

Here's a basic rundown: a DLC event is hosted by a university library. The contest is web-based. Competitors logon to GNIC's site and have thirty minutes to answer thirty questions. Questions range in scope from finding the zip code of an NARA-approved asbestos researcher in California to providing the last name of the person in charge of correspondence for a PLoS article on the pharmaceutical industry. This is obviously not your parent's type of trivia game.

To make matters more complex, questions are answered in free response form, as opposed to multiple choice.As a correct answer in free response can take many shapes, GNIC has a team of judges at Purdue evaluating contestant responses in (near) real time. Much like the game show Jeopardy, participants can both gain and lose points depending on whether or not they answer a question correctly. A correct answer not only provides the appropriate response, but also the proper URL from which the information was obtained. Winners are announced just minutes after the contest concludes.

DLCs benefit students in several ways. Most notably (perhaps "trivially" is a better word), there is a cash prize for first- and second-place competitors. The IUB Libraries and IU's ALA-SC generously donated a $100 first place prize and a $25 second place prize, respectively. However, this is an optional component and only six of twenty IUB participants named this as a reason for participating in the event, with most offering a second reason such as to help with the study of digital literacy or to seize the opportunity to test their own searching skills. The contest also gives students the chance to become active participants in their education. This is a crucial point because it translates into having more informed, engaged students who will no doubt conduct more productive research throughout their IUB careers. This is never a bad thing.

However, the largest benefits of a DLC are kept for the hosting university. The DLC allows university libraries to observe firsthand the tools students have, or are in need of acquiring, when it comes to finding information online. The contest also has the potential to inform the university and its librarians of how students evaluate the credibility of the information they do find, and about how students perceive their own searching abilities.

For example, an important finding in IUB's contest was that 45% of participants felt that IUB libraries could do a better job teaching Internet research skills. Unfortunately, the response portion of the contest does not yet allow participants to offer suggestions on the improvements they'd like to see in Internet research instruction, let alone allow students to consider whether or not it is actually the library's teaching program that is responsible for their lackluster searching skills.

Regardless, the responses in this case also indicate an increasing reliance on the Web for educational purposes (91% of respondents answered that they consider the Web crucial to their intellectual development). Additionally, when asked what they learned from the contest, nearly half of the participants noted something to do with using new academic databases and realizing the importance of evaluating sources of information. A quarter of participants also noted that they were now aware of inefficiencies in their searching strategies and that they learned new ways to improve the quality of their results.Not bad for an hour and a half of their time.

While these statistics may merely support what is already accepted as a given in the world of knowledge management, what is of most importance is the advent of the tool that gathers this information-the DLC. Response questions can be honed in the future to better assist librarians in finding out what is not already a given.

To get at the heart of finding out what students know or don't know, response questions could be fine tuned to better assess concerns a particular library may have. For example, in the pre-contest survey, in addition to asking participants their strategy for winning, a more specific follow-up question might be "Which database will you use to answer questions on American history?" or "What steps do you take to logon to Academic Search Premier?"

The post-contest survey could also potentially concern itself with evaluating student attitudes toward particular types of searches. Responses to the level of comfort/confidence using EBSCO-getting students to nail down specific reasons-could help librarians better understand why students avoid using such databases and assist librarians in figuring out new instructional techniques.

Regardless of the shape of future DLCs, participants agree that there is a need to keep tabs on the digital literacy of today's students and that there is, indeed, a future for this sort of contest.100% of participants affirmed this in the post-contest survey, with all twenty saying they would both compete in the spring as well as recommend the contest to a friend.

The DLC is currently hosted by Purdue, the University of Florida, and Brown, in addition to the IUB campus.After that, I'm guessing the contests will most likely take over the world.

To learn more about this fascinating project, visit

The Brown Daily Herald - Editorial

Net Results

October 15th, 2008

Let's pause to think about the Internet. From e-mail to research and from blogging to on-line shopping, the boundaries between cyberspace and ordinary life are rapidly diminishing. However, the easy access to information and the free exchange of ideas the Internet affords is as liberating and constraining as it is exciting and scary.

There are many who unreservedly celebrate the Internet. Take, for example, the Digital Literacy Contest held last week on campus. In promoting Internet research skills, the company that hosted the test makes the provocative claim that the Internet is a "cognitive prosthetic." That is to say, it is a tool as important to thinking as an artificial leg is to ambulation.

There can be no doubt that the Internet is widely regarded as an indispensable tool in modern life. In fact, the idea of its indispensability has so much currency that some claim John McCain is inadequately prepared to be a modern president because he lacks competent Internet skills.

The widespread belief in the essentiality of the Internet raises interesting issues about our dependence on it. We recall how Janis Joplin sang "Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose" in the 1970s. Though we know that her words resonated when the Vietnam War was raging and anti- establishment anger was buzzing, we ask you to consider the timelessness of her message by inquiring whether the Internet is a possession that possesses us because it is too important to lose.

Lest you think this is an irrelevant question, ask yourself whether your life would be materially altered without the Internet. Would your daily existence be the same if you could not shop on Amazon, research on Google, routinely check your e-mails or watch YouTube? If the answer to any of these questions is no, permit us to suggest that the Internet possesses you more than you possess it.

We also ask you to ponder to what extent the Internet controls the flow of information in our society. Newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Post now disseminate more news on their Web sites than they do from the sales of their newspapers. Network and Cable news giants such as NBC and Fox augment and daily reproduce their national broadcasts on their Web sites. And new Internet web sites such as and the Daily Kos threaten to supplant the mainstream media.

The net result is that the Internet may replace newspapers and television one day. There is also the possibility that filmmakers may make major studios obsolete by presenting their movies directly to the public via pay-per-view sites on the Internet.

These developments may presage a greater democratization of access to information on the Internet. For example, if Yale University already makes taped lectures of some of its best courses available on-line on its Web site, one can imagine other universities following suit. And if this could be done with education, why couldn't there be Internet access to the great libraries of the world or to leading cultural events such as theater, opera and ballet?

While such a democratization of access would be felicitous, it also carries with it a danger of abuse, since an Internet that has the capacity to spread good information also has the capacity to peddle pedophilia or disseminate disinformation about the parentage of Sarah Palin's baby or Obama's religion.

Thus Internet freedom, like any freedom, requires vigilance and comes at a heavy cost.

The Brown Daily Herald

Students Google competitively for cash

October 10th, 2008

Andrew Bergmanson '11 draws stares from his competitors as he pushes open the double glass doors and enters the silent room. They might feel threatened by the shamrock-green streak in his otherwise black hair - an "intimidating good luck charm" he got over the weekend - but most just seem amused by his lateness.

"I was making tea," he says, thermos in hand. "I can't come here without my tea."

Knuckles crack around the room as he takes his place among the 40 or so competitors. All share a common goal with Bergmanson - to search and destroy.

Search the Internet, that is, and destroy the competition; Bergmanson is a competitor in the Digital Literacy Contest - "a high speed battle of the minds to find information online."

Using the computer as a "cognitive prosthetic," says contest developer and Purdue University graduate Daniel Poynter, competitors scour the Web to answer obscure questions chosen by Poynter for the cunning strategies required to solve them.

"If Napoleon Dynamite were here," Poynter says, "he'd say something like, 'Chicks dig Internet skills.'"

Competitive research

As the seconds left before the start of the contest tick away on a projected virtual countdown, Poynter surveys the John D. Rockefeller Library battlefield. Competitors of varying ages and concentrations have turned out for the $200 prize awarded to the winner.

"Who thinks they're going to finish in the top 10 percent?" he says.

Bergmanson and a small handful of others raise their hands. He has practiced questions and trained with databases in the days leading up to the Wednesday competition, and he already knows all the rules: 30 questions in 30 minutes, organized by subject and varying in difficulty and point value.

"I'm pretty confident," he says. "As long as I have my tea I'll be fine."

As the contest begins, the sound of fingers tapping on keyboards fills the room, but Bergmanson stares blankly at the first question, which asks him to "calculate the percentage of U.S. energy consumption in both 2003 and 2007 which was made possible by fossil fuels" for the maximum five points.

He skips to the second question, a one-pointer that asks for the name of the youth organization founded by Gov. Donald Carcieri '65. Bergmanson makes creative use of a political resource Web site to answer correctly: "Academy Children's Science Center." It's a solid start for the political science concentrator.

But beside Bergmanson is Music Librarian Ned Quist, who is playing to his strengths and has skipped to a question about an article in a Swedish academic journal. He uses his intimate knowledge of the library's databases to answer quickly and confidently.

The second-floor computer cluster bursts with silent activity as the competitors lock onto their screens, their hands flitting across their keyboards.

"We've never seen this room so quiet," says Head of Reference and Research Services Ron Fark. "And this used to be the Absolute Quiet Room."

'Bicycle for the mind'

A competitive research environment is often a turnoff to students in academic fields, but Poynter has found a niche in making competitive research a sport. The 21-year-old is president of Global Networked-Intelligence Contests, a young company he started with three current Purdue students.

For him, the contest is not just a test of ability, but a new way of looking at the relationship between computers and the mind.

"Steve Jobs explains it better than I do," he says, pulling up a YouTube video of the Apple Inc. founder. Jobs recalls a study he read about in Scientific American that looked at efficiency of locomotion across different species and found that the condor vastly outperformed the human being.

"It was not too proud of a showing for the crown of creation," Jobs says. "But then somebody at Scientific American had the insight to test the efficiency of locomotion for a man on a bicycle... a human on a bicycle blew the condor away."

To Poynter, as to Jobs, the computer is a "bicycle for the mind." GNIC's mission is to create a "Tour de France of Internet-enabled minds."

Brown is the fourth school to purchase Poynter's contest, which Fark says doubles as an advertisement for the library and its extensive - and expensive - resources.

"It's all an awareness thing," Fark says, adding that the funds for the competition came from the library's outreach budget. "It used to be said that the library is the heart of the institution, but the Web has taken things in all different directions."

Associate University Librarian for Scholarly Resources David Stern adds that more skills will be developed in the future, with the goal of fostering "mature information fluency."

"One of the selling points to universities is that they spend millions of dollars on databases but nobody uses them," Poynter says. "A third of the questions require participants to use databases."

But for Poynter, the contest is more of a consciousness-enhancer than a consciousness-raiser. His degree in philosophy influences his explanation of the contest's objectives and a phrase in his company's name, "networked-intelligence."

"I don't remember my dad's phone number, but when I need it I flip open my phone and look for it," he says. "It's not unreasonable to consider it an extension of my memory, my nervous system."

The Internet, then, is the ultimate "cognitive prosthetic." And in the information age, "the ability to wield it should be right up there with IQ tests and the SAT," he says.

A (data)base-less strategy

In the Rock, Bergmanson and his prosthesis aren't getting along. More than halfway through the allotted 30 minutes, he is staring at a dense spreadsheet of information on nuclear energy use by state. He's spent almost 10 minutes entering calculations into Google.

Quist, the librarian, isn't faring too well either. He has a frustrated look on his face as he scans another database and scribbles some information down on a notepad beside him. His pencil slips out of his hand onto the ground and he pounds his fist on the table - precious seconds have been lost.

Other competitors seem to be using their time more efficiently. A student behind Bergmanson watches YouTube in one window while he searches the database ProQuest in another.

By the time the contest draws to a close, Bergmanson and Quist look flustered.

"I think my only chance is if everybody else completely screwed up," Bergmanson says.

"I probably got four points," Quist adds.

The victors are Michael Fruta '09 and Catherine McCarthy '11, who edge out Herald Business Staffer Ben Xiong '11 to tie for first and split the prize money. Their scores of 33 points are the most ever scored in the contest, Poynter says, placing them ahead of their peers at the University of Florida, Indiana University and Purdue.

But for all the effort put into the contest to focus on database usage, the winning strategy appears to have been no strategy at all.

"I don't know how to use the databases," says McCarthy, a neuroscience concentrator. "I just used Google."

Fruta and McCarthy both say they did not prepare for the contest and cherry picked the easy questions first, earning quick points before trying the more difficult ones.

"I thought I might have (had) the wrong strategy," Fruta says.

So how did he win? Fruta, a gender and sexuality studies concentrator, smiles and credits "the free time and independence I had from my concentration."

"Oh, and I ate at the Ratty before this," he says. "I don't usually do that."

WBAA public radio from Lafayette, Indiana

Click below to hear the public service announcement about the contest WBAA played on air for the first contest.

The Independent Florida Alligator

Digital Library Contest tests students' research skills online

September 18th, 2008

By MELISSA MILCHMAN, Alligator Contributing Writer

Stacey Gray is $150 richer, and she never had to leave a computer.

Gray, a UF biology junior, won the Digital Literacy Contest, which tested Internet research skills, at Library West on Wednesday.

Each of about 50 contestants was given 30 minutes to answer 50 questions using the Internet.

Participants were asked to answer questions on local resources, government, technology, humanities and science, according to the contest Web site.

Prize winners were notified by e-mail after the contest, and all participants were e-mailed their scores.

A total of $300, donated by Alachua County Library District and Books Inc., was given out to first, second and third place winners.

Gray said she wants to donate most of her prize money to the Orange and Blue Party's upcoming Student Senate campaign.

Daniel Poynter, a Purdue University graduate, created the Digital Literacy Contest last year.

Since then, the contest has expanded to include three other universities - Brown University, Indiana University and UF.

Michele Crump, interim director for technical services at George A. Smathers Libraries, helped coordinate the event with Poynter.

"I think it is a great event," Crump said. "I think it's a way for [people] to learn about databases they haven't used before. I hope we can do it again."

Journal & Courier newspaper of Lafayette, Indiana

Serious ideas, serious money

April 9, 2008

With $100,000 worth of cash and in-kind services on the line, 10 teams of Purdue University students presented business ideas to a panel of judges Tuesday.

The 21st annual Burton D. Morgan Entrepreneurial Competition was divided into two divisions. Black teams included only undergraduate students. Gold teams were allowed to include nonstudent members.

SmArtan Inc., a company that is proposed as a software testing developer, took the top prize in the Gold division -- $40,000, plus $5,000 worth of legal and business advice from Ice Miller LLC, an Indianapolis company.

Second place in the division was awarded to Cytometry for Life, a company that is developing a low-cost, portable device that can be used to monitor the highly important blood lymphocyte levels in AIDS patients.

Daniel Scott Poynter presenting the Digital Literacy Contest at the Purdue University Burton Morgan business plan competition

"The biggest resistance is acceptance of the new paradigm," team member Hildred Rochon said. "We need to convince people that this can complement what's already being made."

The not-for-profit company won $12,000, plus $3,000 of in-kind services.

Among other competitors in the Gold division:

  • Third place was won by iPrivacy Manager, a computer program that allows people to decide how much of their personal information is made available on Facebook, MySpace and other social networks.
  • The company received $8,000, plus $2,000 worth of in-kind services.
  • Fourth place, worth $3,500, was awarded to Flocessor Microfluidic Technologies, which proposes to create programmable computer chips.
  • Fifth place, and $1,500, was presented to GameSense, a Web-based program that provides videos of football games that can be reviewed by players and coaches at any location that has an Internet connection.

EcoDisc, a company that is developing shooting discs which use soy-based material, took top honors in the Black division.

The soy material degrades quicker than current shooting discs and minimizes soil damage.

Last month, the firm won a $1,000 top prize in the second annual Elevator Pitch Competition, which also was held at the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship at Purdue's Discovery Park.

Tuesday's win was worth $20,000 in cash.

The $7,000 second place prize was won by Digital Literacy Contest, which creates programs that require participants to search a number of Internet sites for the answers.

"Libraries are failing to teach new skills. Information is exponentially increasing on the Web," said team leader Daniel Poynter. "This contest is a window through which librarians can see how students use the Web right now. They'll probably know about the next Google before the librarians."

Among other competitors in the Black division:

  • Third place, and $5,000, was won by Unstoppable Learning, which proposes to create a video game that can help students study for ISTEP, SATs and other tests.
  • P-Ride was awarded fourth place, and $2,500. The company is developing a battery-powered rollerblade/shoe that can reach a top speed of 12 mph and cover a 10-mile range before being recharged.
  • Fifth place, and $1,000, went to Recruit-Cast, which proposed a business that offers video interviewing services that allows firms to reach and evaluate potential employees without paying the cost of travel and accommodations.

Journal & Courier newspaper of Lafayette, Indiana

Search this! Contest will test students' Web literacy (736 KB)

August 26, 2007

Students have known for years that sitting in front of the television with a laptop is preferable to trudging to the library and searching among the dusty shelves.

"Basically the Internet is something you can use from the comfort of your own home," said Ashwin Adhikari, a Purdue University junior majoring in math. "You can search something with one hand while you're eating with another."

But Daniel Poynter, a senior in philosophy at Purdue, wants to make sure his fellow students know that not everything on the Internet is "Googlable" or accurate. So he's holding a digital literacy contest Wednesday to put students' Internet searching skills to the test.

"In the information age, we need to be able to use the Internet effectively," Poynter said. "Without good Internet searching techniques, all that is beyond many people's reach."

The contest pits 70 students against each other to answer 100 questions in 30 minutes using only the Internet. Poynter said many of the answers will be difficult to find using only popular search engines.

Adhikari is participating because he relies on the Internet for much of his work and wants to see just how good he is at it.

"I want to put it to the test," he said. "Maybe get better at it."

Allen Brizee, coordinator of Purdue's Online Writing Lab, said the Internet is necessary for students these days, though he doesn't believe it will replace libraries. He said the two actually complement each other as libraries are compiling information on their Web sites for students to get starts on their research.

"It's really becoming one big network between the Online Writing Lab, Purdue Libraries and students' work," Brizee said.

Brizee said the biggest concern he has with the Internet, though, is that students believe everything the read. He said anyone can put false information on a Web site.

"It's hard for students to know the difference between hard, real information and hearsay," Brizee said.

Poynter's contest will include free pizza and refreshments for the 70 students who sign up and will be followed by a discussion about the future of the Internet and libraries.

Writer: Brian Wallheimer,

Purdue Online Writing Lab Newsletter

- interview with Daniel Scott Poynter, contest creator

Purdue OWL News Feature Story

August 17, 2007

By H. Allen Brizee, OWL Coordinator

A digital literacy competition is being held at Purdue University on August 29th. As digital literacy impacts writing and rhetoric in the 21st century, we thought that more information on this event would be of interest to our readers. We've interviewed Daniel Scott Poynter, a Purdue senior who is the guiding force behind the Digital Literacy Competition, to learn more.

Purdue OWL: Can you tell us the details of the contest?

This is a high speed battle of minds to find information online. It's like an open book Academic Decathlon, but with access to the entire Internet. The competition consists of 30 minutes to find the answers to 100 questions. Free pizza and refreshments are being served, thanks to Purdue Libraries. The competition takes place on Wednesday, Aug 29, 2007 at 6pm in Stanley Coulter 231 [Purdue University West Lafayette Campus]. Faculty, students and community members are welcome. The competition is open to the first 70 individuals who register at:

Purdue OWL: Where did you get the idea for the competition?

The contest has roots in my reading of Alvin Toffler's 1970 book Future Shock, Ray Kurzweil's work on the future of technology, Thomas Friedman's book The World is Flat as well as seeing the international business scene this summer in San Francisco. Change seems to be accelerating. This is the first time distance means basically nothing with regard to communication. This contest can be seen as one way to ease ourselves into a radically exciting and frightening future.

Purdue OWL: Why is digital literacy important?

As the 66.8 billion dollar television advertising industry collapses (thanks TiVo) and marketers look for more creative ways of capturing our attention through more insidious means (product placement) we will see more information providers stealthily mixing fact with opinion (to pitch products and politicians). The bigger issue is trust: is it wrong to trust Wikipedia over Britannica if Wikipedia is correct about most issues most of the time? What long-term effects will there be of being immersed in cyberspace and information providers like Wikipedia?

Purdue OWL: How do you see the digital literacy contest growing?

This first contest is a "proof of concept." We'd like to start a conversation about the future of knowledge with experts, academics, libraries, etc. If the contest is a success, it would be great to replicate it elsewhere. The open source model will be used to spread our findings and the rules of thumb which we've found to work. It would be fantastic for a community to emerge online to help evolve the contest.

Purdue OWL: Can you tell us more about your future plans?

I'm a senior at Purdue studying Philosophy. I may move to NYC and do consultancy work for higher education with regard to technology. I may also go to law school or graduate school. I'd like to pursue studies about technology and its wider implications in society, religion, identity, relationships, commerce, privacy, international relations and the future of human evolution.

Purdue Online Writing Lab Newsletter

- interview with Daryl Lim, contest winner

Purdue OWL News Feature Story

September 3, 2007

By H. Allen Brizee, OWL Coordinator

Over seventy Purdue University students from a wide range of disciplines competed last night in the first Digital Information Literacy Contest, which was organized by Daniel Poynter, a Purdue senior in philosophy. The contest took place in two computer labs on Purdue's West Lafayette campus. Students used their computer research skills to answer questions from various fields, such as economics, geography, rhetoric, math, and pop culture. Contestants were given thirty minutes to answer correctly as many questions out of one hundred as possible.

The winner, Daryl Lim, a first year computer science major, received $50 and a Purdue Writing Lab t-shirt. Second place winner, Alex Porter, received $20, and third place winner, Peter Clay, won $10. Members of the OWL staff were pleased to help with the contest and partner with Purdue University Libraries in assisting with such a successful event.

After the contest, participants gathered for free pizza to discuss the event and its future, as well as topics ranging from online credibility and research to open source information exchange. Students were excited about the contest and provided good feedback for its organizers. The contest's guiding force, Daniel Poynter, concluded that the event was, "Better than I could have imagined." Another participant, Marvin Weniger, a Purdue senior in nuclear engineering, said, "It was a lot of fun."

The Purdue OWL News is pleased to present an interview with the Digital Information Literacy Contest winner, Daryl Lim:

Purdue OWL: How did you hear about the contest?

I was coming out of a class when I saw the flyer on a notice board. It looked like an interesting challenge so I decided to register and try my luck.

Purdue OWL: Why did you participate?

The information on the website gave me the idea that the contest was basically a information wild goose chase, only online. I've been using computers since I was eight or nine, so I wanted to see how badly that had honed my skills and addled my brain.

Purdue OWL: Did you find the questions difficult to answer?

Some of the questions asked for pretty obscure information from a specific webpage or academic journal. Ironically, those were the easiest to score points on because there was no room for ambiguity - if you find the site, you have the answer, no questions asked. I skipped over every question that would have taken me more than three or four seconds to read, though.

Purdue OWL: How do you think these sorts of research skills can help the 21st century student?

In our connected world, the modern student has access to more information than ever before. That doesn't automatically guarantee his ability to make use of that information meaningfully, though - it just means he has more information available to him. The skills of searching through large volumes of information and filtering out what isn't important or accurate will become increasingly essential.

Purdue OWL: How did you tell the difference between reliable and unreliable sources?

This is going to be a politically incorrect answer, It's not what it seems, though. On the Internet, every source is potentially unreliable because anyone could have put the information up without peer review. Information from the academic fields, which does undergo review, is usually to be found on sites that are not free to access and therefore not part of the information landscape that most people can see. The most efficient way to verify the accuracy of a piece of information online is to hit as many sources as possible and aggregate what they say - each site will give you a general idea of one issue and you can form your complete picture later.

Of course, this contest tried to encourage accuracy by deducting points for wrong answers, but I treated it this way: in the time it takes me to verify a previous answer, I could have answered one or two more questions and potentially gained more points.

Purdue OWL: Do you think this contest and discussion helped your research skills?

Certainly. It forced me to make split-second decisions on what I could accept as accurate information and how best to perform Internet searches while keeping the number of words typed into the search engine as few as possible. Efficient search techniques are in every Internet user's interest.

Of course, it certainly made me practice my speed typing!

Purdue OWL: What search techniques (engines, resources, browsers, etc.) did you use most?

I stayed on Google and Wikipedia most of the time. I had previously considered opening up academic paper search engines, but Google is faster and it has already begun to index many books and papers, allowing them to be searched through Google directly.

In terms of techniques, it was more about figuring out how few words you could type to find the information you needed. For example, one of the questions asked about the highest point in Rwanda. The fastest way to find that out would be to type "wiki rwanda" into Firefox, hit F3 to bring up the search box and type "high", and then look at the height for the highest point. If you need to convert units from meters to feet, Google can do that. Just type in "1000 meters in feet" in the search box and it will handle the rest.

Purdue OWL: Would you participate next year if the contest is offered?

Certainly. As long as you keep offering free pizza. :)

The Purdue Writing Lab and the OWL staff congratulate Daryl Lim for winning the first Digital Information Literacy Contest.

Times-Mail newspaper of Lawrence County, Indiana

Digital Detective - What is the Internet doing to research, reasoning skills?

October 3, 2007

Plato, in "Phaedrus", said the writing of letters would cause people to trust "the external written characters and not remember of themselves."

Now, more than 2,300 years later, a similar question is being posed about what tools of the digital age, like cell phones and the Internet, are doing to research skills and common-sense smarts.

Summer project

Purdue University senior Daniel Scott Poynter, a philosophy major, didn't have a job over the summer. But that didn't mean his brain wasn't working.

After taking a trip to San Francisco, Poynter entertained the quandary of the quick-paced globalization of the business world.

"I wondered how Americans are going to stay competitive," he said.

So, he created a competition to test intelligence.

"Not just intelligence," he explained. "But Internet-enabled intelligence.

"For example, I don't remember my friend's cell phone numbers because I don't have to " (they're) in my cell phone. And I don't really remember a lot of important things like I should because I can Google it and find it within two seconds.

"So, intelligence is changing and we need new ways to test it."

And that's what Poynter tried to do last month with a Digital Literacy Contest at Purdue, which was a competition of Internet research skills.

Fifty people competed in the 100-question session. Questions ranged from pinning down the height of a first-edition, hardback book to learning which couple married in the Rose Garden of the White House in 1971.

The winner, a freshman in Purdue's college of science, answered 31 questions correctly in the allotted 30 minutes.

Digital literacy

While Poynter's contest tested Web researching skills, many educators are trying to teach those skills.

"I would say when the students come in to do research, they are pretty much going online," said Andrea Castrale, librarian at Mitchell High School.

So, she gives students a list of questions to ask themselves when searching for valid and credible information on the World Wide Web.

"We talk about, "Check your Web site before you start getting information from it,"" she said. "There are several different points to look at, like, "Does it have an author?" "Is it biased?" "Is it a government site or is it a dot-com site?" "Look and see if there's a date, if it's been updated recently.'

Bedford North Lawrence High School English teacher Brian Hawkins requires research for some projects, and usually requires students to use at least one non-digital source. But he's far from discouraging using the Internet for research.

'We should be encouraging students to use the 'Net,' he wrote in an e-mail to the Times-Mail. 'Of course, I would like to think that they can still find a magazine article or a book, too.'

Some advice

Hawkins and Castrale said deciphering information on the Internet takes practice.

'I think it's a learning process, no matter what age you are,' Castrale said. 'It's like learning any other kind of skill ' the more you do it, the better you are at filtering things through.'

Both offered warnings about using the peer-edited encyclopedia Wikipedia.

'Stay away from Wikipedia, except for fun,' Hawkins wrote. 'It is a great site to use, and I do all of the time. But you have to take it for what it is ' a place where anyone can post.'

He said he steers students toward sites ending in .edu and .org ' which are often run by schools and nonprofits ' and steers them away from .com and .net sites.

Writer: Carly Nation,

Purdue University News Service

Purdue Libraries assist student's online fact-finding contest

August 9, 2007

Purdue Libraries assist student's online fact-finding contest

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A Purdue University senior is using a contest in which participants test their skills in gathering obscure information off the Internet to make the point that America's future depends upon our ability to mine the increasing amount of information online.

"We're already a service economy," said philosophy major Daniel Scott Poynter. "We're not competitive making widgets with our hands, and our white-collar jobs like accounting and programming can often be done for a tenth the price overseas. Our only hope of being competitive is sifting through the data deluge better than anyone else and creating value from mankind's best invention - the Web."

The pilot project - The Digital Information Literacy Contest: A Contest of Internet Research Skills and Critical Thinking - is scheduled for 6-7 p.m. Aug. 29 in Stanley Coulter Hall, Room 231. The event is free and open to the public to compete. Purdue University Libraries is providing free pizza and drinks, and the West Lafayette library is a sponsor. Cash and other prizes will be awarded to winners. This contest is a "proof of concept" - participants will have the opportunity afterwards to help develop the concept and be a part of the formative event.

Participants will be given 30 minutes, a seat at a computer and a list of questions to answer by searching online. For example, participants might be asked to find the address of where a business was located in 1965. Contestants will be penalized for incorrect answers, making a major part of the challenge the search for reliable information.

"There is so much information online, but what's opinion, fact or disinformation?" Poynter said. "This is one way to get people talking about sorting through the flood of information. And how do we test Internet-enabled individuals? Our generation has grown up immersed in cyberspace. This is already altering the human experience radically. We need both intellectually rounded and historically grounded training in processing information to be proactive shapers of the future."

The contest is open to the first 70 people who register online at Poynter also is seeking volunteers to help create questions and grade responses.

For more information, contact Poynter at (765) 425-6033, e-mail him at or go online to

Writer: Jim Bush (765) 494-2077,

Purdue University News Service

Libraries, Information Technology at Purdue to assist in online fact-finding contest

September 3, 2008

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A contest in which competitors look up hard-to-find information in obscure places in an Internet scavenger hunt is scheduled for Sept. 10 at Purdue University.

The third Digital Literacy Contest will be 6-8 p.m. in campus computer laboratories. Purdue Libraries will provide food, and the Office of Information Technology at Purdue will provide facilities. It is free and open to the public to participate as contestants.

"Information resources available either through subscriptions provided by the Libraries or through readily available Web sites are so ubiquitous that it becomes a challenge for students to 'drill-down' in order to find the best and most authoritative answer to a research question. In today's global, digital society it is increasingly important that each of us knows how to locate information, access and evaluate it, and then apply it," said James L. Mullins, dean of Purdue Libraries. "The contest is a fun event where the importance of information literacy is highlighted for our students."

Purdue alumnus Daniel Poynter created the contest last year and, with the help of many other students, attracted 50 competitors to the first contest in August 2007. The second contest drew 120 people last January. It is now spreading to other campuses. The libraries at Brown University, Indiana University and the University of Florida will host the contest this fall.

During the contest, competitors will be given a seat at a computer and 30 minutes to use the Internet to answer a list of questions. A sample question, according to Poynter: "'How much did Loews Corp. donate to Rep. Lamar Alexander's campaign during the 2002 cycle?" This question can be answered using," said Poynter, who graduated in the spring with a bachelor's degree in philosophy.

Those who wish to register for the contest can do so online at For more information, contact Poynter at (765) 425-6033 or e-mail him at

"ITaP is pleased to support this interactive learning experience where contestants can use technology to gather and evaluate information to answer questions or solve problems," said Nancy Wilson Head, executive director of teaching and learning technologies in the Office of Information Technology at Purdue.

Writer: Jim Bush, (765) 494-2077,

Sources: James Mullins (765) 494-2900,

Nancy Wilson Head, 496-3685,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

Purdue University News Service

Purdue students, alumnus win national new media and learning competition with Digital Democracy Contest

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A team of three Purdue University students led by a 2008 graduate won the young innovator division of the MacArthur Foundation's Digital Media and Learning Competition.

The team, which proposed a free Web-based contest to help high school government teachers educate students, was awarded $9,000 as one of five winning projects.

In the project, called the Digital Democracy Contest, students will compete in teams to answer questions using U.S. government Web sites.

Daniel Scott Poynter, the Purdue philosophy department alumnus who led the team, said there is great potential to increase civic engagement through the information available online.

"We want to help students benefit from new government transparency efforts," Poynter said. "Information overload is real, and though it can cripple, it can also empower students. We are looking for high school government teachers to pilot the contest this fall."

The team includes junior in computer science George Tebbetts, sophomore in computer science John Bohlmann and junior in electrical and computer engineering technology Amit Pahwa.

In 2007 the team created a similar collegiate-level contest called the Digital Literacy Contest, in which participants compete to find and evaluate information online. The contest has been used by nine universities and continues to expand, Poynter said.

Bohlmann offered advice to students looking for such success.

"There are many resources available to students, but you have to apply yourself to be successful," he said. "Purdue provides an excellent shoulder to stand on as you reach for success. The contacts available and the learning environment are excellent, but in order to reap the full potential of the experience, you have to apply yourself and find people that will help push you forward. The value you get from college greatly depends on the amount you proactively search for opportunities."

Purdue Libraries, the College of Technology, Ackerman Center for Democratic Citizenship and the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship Business Plan Competition funded the team's efforts.

The Digital Media and Learning Competition, which is in its second year, is designed to find the most novel uses of new media in support of learning. The competition awarded $2 million to individuals, companies, universities and community organizations for projects that employ games, mobile phone applications, virtual worlds, social networks, wikis and video blogs to explore how digital technologies are changing the way that people learn and participate in daily life.

This year's competition was expanded to include proposals from people ages 18-25 within the young innovators category.

The competition is funded by a MacArthur grant to the University of California, Irvine, and Duke University and is administered by the Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Advanced Collaboratory, a virtual network of learning institutions. The competition is part of MacArthur's $50 million digital media and learning initiative designed to help determine how digital technologies are changing the way young people learn, play, socialize and participate in civic life.

Writer: Elizabeth Gardner, 765-494-2081,

Sources: Daniel Poynter, 765-425-6033,

Amit Pahwa, 914-419-3517,

John Bohlmann, 765-495-4509,

George Tebbetts, 847-274-2141,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

Purdue Exponent newspaper

Competition exercises critical thinking, Internet navigation skills

August 30, 2007

On Wednesday, students from all over Purdue ripped open envelopes bursting with questions as they competed in the Digital Information Literacy Contest.

About 70 students signed up for the contest and had 30 minutes to answer 100 questions, which tested their Internet literacy. The three highest-scoring contestants received cash prizes. The main focus of the contest, held in Stanley Coulter Hall, was to use the Internet to find the answers, rather than test people's knowledge.

Daniel Poynter, a senior in the College of Liberal Arts and the main organizer of the event, said that there were two focuses, other than just testing a person's Internet research skills.

"Our first focus is that we need people to be thinking critically now, more than ever," Poynter said, "to stop people who don't have our interests from pitching products to us that we don't need."

The second focus, Poynter said, was to get people talking about the future of humanity, specifically with technology and computers.

The event was organized by Poynter with help from the Purdue Libraries, the West Lafayette Library, the Purdue Online Writing Lab and many more.

The questions that were submitted were mostly from librarians and others who had an interest in being involved in the contest.

After the time was up, all the contestants were ushered into a room in the Recitation Building, where free pizza and drinks were distributed alongside evaluation sheets on the contest. A discussion erupted between the contestants and Poynter, which included their opinions and feedback on the contest.

Poynter said the contest was a pilot and that from this experience they plan to find out new ways to improve it and make it better.

"We hope to grow, to try and make it more effective and fun," Poynter said.

Finally, the three contestants that scored the highest were announced. The highest score was a 31 out of 100 by Daryl Lim, a freshman in the College of Science, second place went to Alex Porter, a senior in College of Technology, and third place to Peter Clay, a sophomore in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. All three were excited about doing well.

"It was pretty fun and I was looking to challenge myself," Lim said. "I was prepared to hit Google as hard as possible."

Writer: Nadine Mahasneh

Purdue University News Service

Contestants can put their digital information literacy to the test

January 14, 2008

Contestants can put their digital information literacy to the test

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - People will put their ability to search for obscure information on the Internet to the test during a Jan. 23 contest at Purdue University.

The Digital Information Literacy Contest, created by senior philosophy major Daniel Poynter and supported by three Purdue entities and the West Lafayette Public Library, is free and open to the public to compete. It will take place from 6-7:30 p.m. in Stanley Coulter Hall, and competitors must register online.

The event is the second such contest Poynter has organized. At the first such contest in August, 50 contestants participated.

"This competition is one of the first high-speed battles of minds using the Internet as a cognitive prosthetic to amplify intelligence. It has three main objectives," Poynter said. "To identify people who thrive on information overload; to disseminate their insights; and to create a discussion about Purdue's role in shaping the future American knowledge worker."

A discussion on the third objective will follow the contest.

"Our age is both unprecedented and pivotal," Poynter said. "Unparalleled global access to information is accelerating technological and social change. Making sense of our increasingly complex world depends upon becoming better information filters. This competition is one way to ease ourselves into this exciting future."

Poynter said $700 in cash prizes will be split among contestants. In addition to the West Lafayette Public Library, Purdue's College of Technology and the James F. Ackerman Center for Democratic Citizenship in the College of Education, are co-sponsors. Purdue Libraries will provide food.

Contestants will be given 30 minutes, a seat at a computer and a list of questions to answer by searching online.

Those wanting to enter the contest must register online at Space is limited to the first 200 people. For more information, e-mail Poynter at, call him at (765) 425-6033, or visit his Web site at

Writer: Jim Bush (765) 494-2077,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096,

Purdue University News Service

Product competition sends Purdue student-entrepreneurs to nationals

March 26, 2008

Product competition sends Purdue student-entrepreneurs to nationals

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Three student-led teams from Purdue University will compete with other universities at a national event April 5 to determine the best projects that link service-learning, the environment and entrepreneurship. The 2008 National Idea-to-Product Competition for Social Entrepreneurship takes place at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.

"These Purdue students are passionate about their causes and are positioned to do well at the national competition," said Nancy Clement, interim director of the university's Social Entrepreneurship Initiative. "They've put a great deal of work into their projects and presentations. Regardless of how they finish, they're already winners for advancing to this next level."

The three Purdue teams, which advanced by winning a March 1 competition sponsored by Discovery Park's Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship and the Center for the Environment, are:

  • Uber Shelter, designed by Rafael Smith, was the top Purdue presentation in the environmental design category. The concept for a portable housing unit would help meet immediate shelter needs created by a catastrophic event. The shelter, which can be reassembled with just a few tools, provides victims with personal living space and can be collapsed for ease in transportation. It's also made from recyclable and reusable materials.
  • Brian Smith, Chris Parmley and Amy Hoffman, working with Greater Lafayette Area Special Services-Preschool, was the top Purdue finisher in the service-learning category. This project focused on a mouse workshop, which is an Internet-based suite of computer software games to help preschoolers learn computer skills even if they can't yet read. The programs also help youngsters improve their fine-motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
  • Daniel Poynter, working with The Digital Information Literacy Contest, advanced from Purdue's competition in the general entrepreneurship category. This project involves an Internet-based tool created to improve student interest in using library resources and provide libraries with feedback on how students search the Internet for information.

Smith, a senior in industrial design at Purdue, said he's optimistic about his project heading into the national competition and has added civil engineering student Josh Messner to bolster the technical aspects of his team's presentation next month in Atlanta.

"Our goal is to create more than an emergency shelter," Smith said. "This concept is a shelter solution that meets the needs in the case of an emergency response but also provides victims with a personal place to live. I wanted to design a project that would impact people's lives."

Brent Ladd, program coordinator for learning and engagement at the Center for the Environment, said the regional I2P competitions are growing in popularity, boosting the quality of these projects and the understanding of how social entrepreneurship can impact college campuses.

"Entrepreneurship has become a key part of the education process at Purdue," Ladd said. "Social entrepreneurship takes that concept to the next level by encouraging student collaborations with nonprofit organizations and other groups to design viable, sustainable projects that may provide funding to meet the mission of these groups."

Others competing in the Purdue event included students Mike Raley, Lance Nelson, Eric Smith, Yuvraj Singh, Satkhozhina Aziz and Emily Wigley on a team working with the Speech Language Audiology Clinic; Vince PeGan and Derek Merek with their Recycle Knowledge project; and Rahul Bhutani, Ben Campbell, Aaron Conovaloff, Allison Conovaloff, Joshua Emory, Taylor Figg, Ebenezer Gnanamankickam, Josh Messner, Brad Milius, Jim Piersma and Aamod Samuel with their Sustainable Water Pump project.

In Purdue's 2007 Idea-to-Product Competition for Social Entrepreneurship, a team from the Lafayette Area Reading Academy took top honors. Greater Lafayette Area Special Services finished second last year and placed third nationally.

The national competition, which was last held at Purdue in 2005, returns to the West Lafayette, Ind., campus in 2009.

Purdue's Social Entrepreneurship Initiative, based in Discovery Park's Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship, is a program that provides a pathway for commercialization of products created by students for non-profit organizations addressing social needs.

Writer: Phillip Fiorini, (765) 496-3133, , Maggie Morris, (765) 494-2096

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096,

Purdue University News Service

Student-led teams take top honors at Purdue's entrepreneurship competition

April 10, 2008

Student-led teams take top honors at Purdue's entrepreneurship competition

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Student-led teams developing a program for testing software and an environmentally friendly biodegradable shooting target took the top prizes Tuesday (April 8) at the $100,000 Burton D. Morgan Entrepreneurial Competition at Purdue University.

Software developer SmartAn Inc. won the $40,000 top prize in the Gold Division. The team, led by Sirsha Chatterjee and Murali Krishna Ramanathan, also will receive legal and consulting services valued at $5,000 from Ice Miller LLC.

EcoDisc Inc., which includes undergraduate students A.J. Boeh, John Mullen, David Conway and Benn Hall, beat out four other finalists for the $20,000 top prize in the Black Division.

"The final presentations from both the undergraduate and graduate student teams were strong and highly competitive," said Kenneth Kahn, the Avrum and Joyce Gray Director of the Burton Morgan Center in Purdue's Discovery Park. "With their winnings from this well-established competition, the teams now can take their ideas, refine them and work to further realize their products, inventions and services."

The Gold Division, also known as the open category, includes non-student members if no more than 20 percent of the team is composed of non-Purdue personnel. Top three winners in this division also received free legal and consulting services from the event's associate sponsor, Ice Miller, an Indianapolis-based legal and business-advising firm.

In addition to SmartAn, Gold Division winners were:

  • Second place, $12,000 and $3,000 in legal and consulting services: Cytometry for Life, a company developing a low-cost diagnostic device for AIDS. Hildred Rochon and Lova Rakotomalala made the presentation.
  • Third place, $8,000 and $2,000 in legal and consulting services: iPrivacy Manager, led by Arjmand Samuel and Robert M. Caswell in developing an online security service for social networking Internet sites.
  • Fourth place, $3,500: Flocessor Microfluidic Technologies, a company developing a general-purpose, programmable microfluidic lab-on-a-chip device, led by Ahmed Amin and Han-Sheng Chuang.
  • Fifth place, $1,500: GameSense, an Internet-based service for improving video training for sports teams, led by Jae Patrick Fadde.

Black Division teams included only undergraduate Purdue students, but could include a faculty adviser. Other division finishers at the 21st annual event were:

  • Second place, $7,000: Digital Information Literacy Contest, a concept led by Daniel Poynter, Amit Pahwa and John Bohlman that involves an Internet-based tool created to improve student interest in using library resources.
  • Third place, $5,000: Unstoppable Learning, an educational software development company led by Andrew Evans, Travis Faas, Eric Biddle and Drew Allen.
  • Fourth Place, $2,000: P-Ride, a motorized inline skate developer led by Karl Kreder, John Dill, Travis Brubaker and Dan Hursh.
  • Fifth Place, $1,000: Recruit-Cast, a videoconferencing concept for prospective job applicants led by Jeff Carr and Darrin Hines.

The annual competition started with 47 executive summary submissions describing innovative product and service offerings. Five undergraduate and five graduate student teams then were invited to make 30-minute presentations on their business plans Tuesday (April 8).

Judges for the competition were Carrie Bates, managing partner of Triathlon Medical Ventures in Indianapolis; Shane Fimbel of the Purdue Research Foundation; Chaz Giles, strategist and finance manager of Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati; Ken Green, founding partner of Spring Mill Venture Partners in Carmel, Ind.; G. Logan Jordan, associate dean of administration in Purdue's Krannert School of Management; Azin Lotfi, partner of Ice Miller; Jim Mellott of Northwest Interiors Corp. in Elkhart, Ind.; Steve Shade, managing director of Purdue's Center for Advanced Manufacturing; and Rob Theodorow of Stormfront Productions in Lafayette.

In 2007, advanced manufacturing technology device company M4 Sciences Corp., won the top prize in the competition's Gold Division, while won the Black Division for its online calendar that promotes the local arts and music scene.

The Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship provides a platform to launch technology-based enterprises based on Purdue research and helps faculty, students and Indiana entrepreneurs better understand how to bring research and technology to market.

The Discovery Park center also leads Purdue's Kauffman Campuses Initiative for fostering entrepreneurship programs across campus. The national initiative emphasizes student entrepreneurial ideas and ventures, and makes entrepreneurship education available on campuses across the country.

Writer: Phillip Fiorini, (765) 496-3133,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096,

The Indianapolis Star

Contest - Test your Web search savvy

January 17, 2008

A Purdue University student has unveiled a new competition to test contestants' power to scour the Internet for information.

The Digital Information Literacy Contest is free, and winners will share $700 in prizes. Contestants have 30 minutes to find the answers to a list of questions online.

The contest will be Jan. 23 at Purdue, and participants must register in advance at Space is limited to the first 200 people.

Journal & Courier newspaper of Lafayette, Indiana

Student competition turns out ideas to help nonprofits

March 2, 2008

Offering solutions to pressing social and environmental problems were the challenges placed before Ben Campbell and other young entrepreneurs who participated in a competition held at Purdue University on Saturday.

Campbell, a sophomore in plant breeding and genetics, was part of a 10-person team that presented a plan for a sustainable water pump to be used by Lifewater, a charity that works to provide third world countries with access to safe water, adequate sanitation and effective hygiene.

"We took our engineering skills to give Lifewater a pump that uses easily obtainable parts with no moveable parts below the ground," Campbell said. "The competition provided us with an opportunity to compete for funds, to further our research and to focus our efforts."

The idea-to-product competition, now in its fifth year, invites students to present an idea for a product that works in conjunction with the aims of a local, national or international nonprofit organization.

"We were impressed with the diversity of the ideas presented by the students," said Brent Ladd, a Learning and Engagement coordinator for Purdue's Center for the Environment, and facilitator of the competition. "Engineering students have been involved for the past four years. This is the first time we have gotten environmental students to think about solving problems entrepreneurally."

Six teams competed in both the social and environmental categories, presenting ideas for a product with a discussion of its viability to a panel of three judges who scored the entries based on a clear description of the technology and its status, opportunities to develop the project for the commercial market and the potential to protect the product's intellectual property.

The sustainable water pump came in third place in the environmental category, which was won by Rafael Smith's Uber Refugee Shelter.

Smith, a senior, presented a design for a reusable, two- refugee shelter that could be used by the United Nations to assist refugees during humanitarian crises.

The top three entries shared a $10,000 prize.

In the social category, Brian Smith, Amy Hoffman and Chris Parmley's GLASS-PS, a web based application that teaches children to be more familiar with computers, took first place. Daniel Poynter's Digital Literacy Competition came in second. Both will compete in Georgia.

Ladd said that the funds awarded to the competitors would help to take their designs to the next level.

"I think the students have learned some things they might not have known before and have, as a result, been able to take their idea further than they would have otherwise. The competition is not just about research, but a way of really getting their ideas implemented," he said.

Writer: Kevin Smith,

Purdue Exponent newspaper

Popular event uses Internet to exercise minds

January 24, 2008

After a successful August trial run, the Digital Literacy Contest ran again with explosive results.

The August run consisted of 70 students, but on Wednesday about 200 students showed up at Stanley Coulter Hall to test their digital literacy skills.

Daniel Poynter, a senior in the College of Liberal Arts and organizer of the event, defined digital literacy as "the ability to leverage the Internet as a cognitive prosthetic."

Poynter explained by pointing out a graph of how efficiently animals get from place to place. Birds outperformed humans in terms of efficiency, but humans, when on a bicycle, outperformed birds.

"So the Internet is like a bicycle for the mind," he said. "But consider the fact that humans are already the most mentally advanced species."

Daryl Lim, a freshman in the College of Science and winner of the previous contest, said he prefers to see the competition as fun, as opposed to competitive.

When asked what he would do with the prize money if he won, Lim said, "I brought some friends this time, so I would treat them to dinner."

Writer: Nickolai Belakovski

Purdue Online Writing Lab Newsletter

Second Digital Literacy Contest Proves Successful

March 7, 2008

By H. Allen Brizee, OWL Coordinator

Daniel Poynter organized and hosted the second Digital Literacy Contest (DLC) on the West Lafayette campus of Purdue University on Wednesday, January 23, 2008. The event proved even more successful than the first contest held in August, 2007. Approximately 120 eager and web savvy participants filled four labs in Stanley Coulter Hall to test their Internet research skills against challenging questions on a wide range of topics.

At the end of the thirty-minute mental competition, Daryl Lim, winner of the first contest, emerged triumphant. Lim took home $100, while second place winner, Jignesh Vidyut Mehta, received $80, and third place participant, Matthew Williamson, won $60. Fourth place winners included a six-way tie between Dorina Mordkovich, Emily Cox, Nathan Claus, Peter Clay, Megan Mohler, and Jonathan R Morton. These participants each won $20.

Event organizers used multimedia in the contest labs to add to the cutting edge atmosphere. "We played a music video created by my friend John Bohlman to make the experience feel futuristic. It was a mashup of the entrancing movie Koyanisqaatsi and the mind bending Shpongle album 'Tales of the Inexpressible,'" Daniel Poynter said.

Poynter added that he believes "the music sped up competitors' minds, induced information overload, and approximated a future when minds merge with machines, knowledge flows at the speed of light, and disembodied psyches roam the n-dimensional information space limited only by their creativity."

When asked about the next step for the DLC, Daniel replied, "we're going to hold miniature contests and experiment with the structure. For example, instead of competitors searching for the answers to 75 questions why not compete to create a 500+ word muckraking journalistic piece? Or a fact supported futurecast? Or a polymathic blog post [examples: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5] in the spirit of Douglas Hofstadter's GEB? Maybe teams could compete. Or, maybe a combination of these and other approaches."

Daniel stated that a long term vision for the contest might expand significantly. "The contest could be an umbrella concept for all contests seeking to test 'Internet-augmented intelligence' with their own home brew arbitrary restrictions. The whole thing could be given a Creative Commons license, and an open source community could imagine and host versions of the contest around the world."

He added that "Versions would undergo natural selection. McLuhan said our electronic infrastructure is the externalization of our nervous systems. Over time this whole community will create approximations of the original vision: a competition of cognitive agility using the Internet as a mental prosthetic."

Regardless of the DLC's future, I can say that having attended both contests, the events are huge fun, and they are educational. Any time you can combine fun and learning, the outcomes are sure to be exciting. The OWL will announce future DLCs.

The Daily Northwestern

NU students click for cash in Digital Literacy Contest

Charged with answering 30 questions in 30 minutes, 26 Northwestern students battled for a $100 top prize and the chance to prove their ultimate Internet literacy in the Digital Literacy Contest at the University Library on Monday.

Wrapping up its two-month tour of college campuses, the contest evaluates students' ability to quickly aggregate information from the Internet, said Daniel Poynter, the competition's organizer.

"It's alien to people, the idea of a contest to measure Internet literacy," said Poynter, who graduated from Purdue University in 2008. "But nowadays we spend so much time behind computer screens … we have outsourced functions of our brain to technology, and people who can use (the Internet) effectively are very powerful."

With three minutes before the start of the competition, participants began with trash talk - "You're really using Safari? Really?"

Five o'clock hit, and screens throughout the computer lab became a sea of Wikipedia and Google, as participants raced to find everything from quotes published in The New York Times in 1851 to reverse image searches of cyborg photos.

Poynter said the idea for the contest came to him between his junior and senior years of college. He approached a professor at Purdue about creating a "Googling contest." For the first contest, Purdue students wrote their answers on paper and were awarded prize money out of Poynter's own pocket. Now, the competition is entirely online.

The competition is in the process of expanding to 500 high schools nationwide to "promote Internet literacy among teenagers," Poynter said. The project was recently awarded a grant through the MacArthur Foundation's Digital Media and Learning Competition.

The competition does "double duty" by bringing students into the library and making them aware of the depth of online database resources available to them, Poynter said.

NU's competition winner, Weinberg junior Adam Pumm, said he "couldn't imagine life without the Internet" and spends about two hours a day surfing the Web.

"This kind of Internet literacy is very important just to be a responsible citizen in the 21st century," he said.

Students at NU scored higher on average than at other universities, Poynter said.

But Weinberg sophomore Cassi Saari, who placed second, said the questions were still difficult - Saari said she wasn't able to complete all of them.

"Some of them were really obscure," she said. "One asked you to find the name of a person who edited a Wikipedia article at a certain time on a certain date."

Poynter said he comes up with questions in reverse.

"Any time I find some Web site or factoid on the Internet, I make a note of it as something that people could be asked to find in the competition," he said.

The competition reminds people of the "instant gratification" of effectively utilizing the Internet to answer questions, Poynter said.

"Ultimately I want to re-sensitize people to the cliché that the Internet is our most powerful invention," he said.

University of Alabama - The Crimson White

'Vagabond' brings contest to Gorgas

One man has been traveling the country to help the students and to live the dream he’s always wanted.

Daniel Poynter is a philosophy graduate from Purdue who has been traveling from college to college hoping to make a difference.

He and three friends created a business called the Digital Literacy Contest in summer 2007.

In 2008, when Poynter graduate from the University, he was able to travel around the country due to the support of libraries. The rest of his friends remain as undergraduates at Purdue but still helping him.

Poynter said the contest is designed to have students and faculty members participate in a 30 minute question survey in which they have to find the answers all on the Internet.

“The questions range in difficulty, but it’s all about being literate in the 21st century,” he said.

The point of the contest is to help libraries around the country in addition to helping no student fall behind.

The students who do well in the contest are interviewed by Poynter and others and then asked to help students who have a more difficult time finding things on the Internet.

“We basically find out what makes these students tick when we interview them,” he said.

“Then these students go out and help students who have trouble processing so much information. It’s a good way to educate people and bring about democracy. No one is left behind.”

He said libraries at Purdue spend about $14 million on books, labor and databases, which are typically only used by graduates and faculty members. He said by teaching students about the resources libraries have it can really open their eyes.

“These questions allow students to use the library databases and they usually walk away realizing how much information is available to them on a regular basis,” he said.

Poynter said he has traveled to at least eight different colleges since he first started traveling including Brown, Northwestern and Cornell.

Poynter added that the Internet is a prosthetic for our minds or an extension of our nervous center and that this is the first contest where people use it that way.

The community has tripled since it was first created Poynter added.

“We remain in contact with the students interviewed and we encourage students to join the clubs [at] their library that basically asks the question, ‘How can we change?’” he said.

Poynter also has a personal motive to come to different universities.

“It’s a chance for me to meet visionary students, he said. “I want them to participate in a discussion with them on the future of humanity and the future of technology. I’m not saying that I’m a visionary person but I just want to meet them.”

He also said his dream has finally come true now that he has started this business and can travel.

“Hitchhiking and vagabonding has been a dream and now I can actually do it.”

The contest will be held in 205 Amelia Gayle Gorgas Library today from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.

There will be $200 in prizes and a free dinner. You can also register by going online or texting 41411: signmeup

To learn more about the Digital Literacy Contest or register for the contest, you can visit their website at