Yesterday I was fortunate enough to have a prep when Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach of the Powerful Learning Practice was hosting a session on “Evaluating Digital Resources.” Once again I fired up Elluminate and logged in for a session. There were a few people I recognized attending the online session including Alec Couros. Alec is one of my former professors at the University of Regina and introduced me to many of the online tools, groups and collaborators that I work with now.

The session was hosted by Nussbaum-Beach but the presenter was Ira Socol. Socol posed the question “How do we know something is true?” He then discussed news stories that have been published before the information has been checked and questioned. His example was the New York Times Airbus A380 story that was published but contradicted information from a story the Times had published two weeks earlier. SocolĀ  discussed the old way of establish information: look at the author’s credentials, the publisher’s authority and whether the library or school distributed the text. The reason the old way is no longer as relevant is that by the time text is published there has already been changes in the information presented.

squidoo.com

Society now looks at information in a much different way. They don’t look for information authority but at perceived authority. Our students may look at an author’s reputation, what someone else recommends, if there is previous experience with the source, who the author and site are associated with and the findability of the information. Most of our students are most impressed by the findability of information or which information had the most hits on Google. The students are equating most hits with the best quality as a way to rate information.

Socol posed discussion questions;

How do your students “know” something is true?

Is it the same way the you (teachers) “know”?

Is it the same way your Board of Education “knows”?

What is true is that students don’t “know” what is true. My example is that earlier this week as my students were researching wonders of the world, one of my students showed me a picture of The Great Wall of China as a water slide. I questioned whether the picture was real or fake. The student hadn’t thought anything about it other than how cool that would be. I sent them back to check. As Socol states we need to teach our students to ask questions and train them in “information intelligence.” We want to ask our students to find the information in other places to verify it is reliable information. We want students to look through the site’s information and question whether the other things the source says are believable. Students also need to know what the author’s perspective is to understand if there is a bias behind the information. According to Socol theĀ  most important technique we can use when we’re teaching our students to evaluate digital resources is to demand of our students “Show me why you think this is true.”

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