It’s Not All Garbage to Me

I recently heard a teacher say that the majority of the information on the web is “all garbage;” and therefore, it should not be used as a source for research.
Students don’t buy that. They ask, “Why can’t I use the internet as a source? If the information is out there in multiple sources, including electronic sources, why are you insisting that I use only textbooks and other print materials?”

Those questions are all too commonly asked by many students who are accustomed to having information at their fingertips. One of my kids came home one day to tell me that she could not use any internet sources for her research. Her teacher wanted her to use “more reliable sources,” like textbooks and periodicals.

I’m not knocking the information one can find in a periodical, but what lesson are we teaching students here? Is NOTHING on the internet valid and reliable? And therefore, we shouldn’t use any of it for research/information?

I understand that a lot of teachers are uneasy about the wealth of misinformation that can be found on the web. However, wouldn’t it be a better skill to teach students HOW to find valid and reliable information?

I sometimes hold a class for teachers that explains how to be a good “Internet Sleuth.” We learn about testing sites for accuracy, validity, reliablility, etc. Why can’t we do that with our students?

Interestingly enough, I found another blog post about this very same issue today. Will Richardson over at posted “YouNiversity” yesterday afternoon. He writes about the same frustration:

“The problem, obviously, is not only are we denying students the ability to connect with and use some great resources ‘wherever they can find it,’ we’re also not teaching them the processes that go along with editing those resources for themselves, for making decisions about the content they find.”

And that is the true disservice to our students. Discernment is a very necessary 21st century digital literacy skill. If we continue to point our students to sources that we know are “trustworthy,” how will they ever learn to find their own trustworthy sources?

And please, let’s not continue to assume, or worse yet, tell our students that everything on the web is “garbage.”

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